Tata Steel UK to close coke ovens on March 20, shut down one BF in summer

Tata Steel UK will close down the coke ovens at its Port Talbot steelworks in Wales earlier than planned due to “deteriorating operational stability,” and will also shut down one blast furnace this summer, the company said on Monday March 18.
The coke ovens at Port Talbot will be closed on March 20.

“The performance of the coke ovens has been deteriorating over many months, despite herculean efforts by the teams there. The condition of the ovens has now worsened to a level that makes continued operation untenable,” chief executive officer Rajesh Nair said on March 18.

“We will now begin the process of safely closing and purging the coke ovens, and ceasing operations at the adjoining By-Products plant,” he added.

In January this year, the company announced plans to shut down the hot-end at Port Talbot before the end of 2024.

One of two operating blast-furnaces (BFs) at Port Talbot will be shut down in summer this year, according to a press release.

Port Talbot is equipped with two BFs with combined capacity for 5 million tonnes per year, and two basic-oxygen furnaces (BOFs) with capacity for 4.8 million tpy. The site at Port Talbot produces hot-rolled and cold-rolled coil, as well as tubes.

Tata Steel plans to replace the existing BF-BOF production route at Port Talbot with more eco-friendly electric-arc furnace (EAF) operations, with new EAFs expected to come online in 2027.

Tata Steel intends to keep its hot-strip mills operating, and the company’s downstream and steel processing centers will also keep working.

Market sources suggested that the company would use both imported slab and slab produced by its own asset in the Netherlands to feed its hot-strip mill.

Unions may consider strike over BF closure
Trade unions described the decision to close the coke ovens as a “massive blow” but admitted that they had expected the decision because of the condition of the equipment.

At the same time, the trade unions expressed their disappointment over Tata’s decision to proceed with this summer’s proposed closure of BF4, and warned of possible industrial action.

“Regretfully, the coke ovens were always going to close during the transition period,” Alun Davies, National Officer for Steel at steelworkers’ trade union Community, said on March 18. “Once national consultations conclude, we will ballot for industrial action, should Tata confirm its intention to close BF No4.”

Published by: Julia Bolotova