SSAB reignition of Raahe BF adds to January furnace restarts across Europe

Nordic steelmaker SSAB restarted the blast furnace at its facility at Raahe in central Finland early in 2023, the company said on January 27 and now expects the market to stabilize.

The company confirmed the restart of the 1.25-million tpy Raahe BF earlier in January 2023 after 1.5 months of downtime.

SSAB stopped the BF in mid-November for maintenance, with the outage was brought forward to reduce output during the fourth quarter in the face of weak steel demand.

“Maintenance work lasted around six weeks and the blast furnace was re-started in the beginning of 2023,” the company said.

In the fourth quarter 2022 SSAB’s crude steel output amounted to 905,000 tonnes, down from 1.19 million tpy in the same quarter of 2021.

Steel shipments from SSAB’s production assets in October-December 2022 was also down year on year at 778,000 tonnes, down from 832,000 tonnes in October-December 2021.

But SSAB said the steel market in Europe has now stabilized, although it acknowledged there is still some uncertainty.

SSAB is the third steelmaker to recently relight a BF idled in the fourth quarter 2022, which has raises concerns among European flat steel buyers, sources said..

Last week Slovakia-based integrated steelmaker US Steel Kosice restarted a second BF at its Kosice facility while earlier in January, ArcelorMittal said it was considering restarting a BF at its facility in Gijon, in northwest Spain.

Most market participants said the recent prices rises in Europe’s flat steel sector have been achieved mainly thanks to more balanced market, in other words, due to the numerous output cuts, so the return of idled capacity could threaten that uptrend.

“It takes several weeks to restart a BF, so I wouldn’t worry about an immediate effect on the market, but if real steel demand doesn’t pick up, we might see tumbling prices in the second half of 2023,” a steel distributor in Norther Europe said.

Published by: Julia Bolotova