USSK restarts furnace following maintenance, criticises safeguard review

US Steel Kosice (USSK) has restarted a blast furnace after completing maintenance planned for summer but brought forward due to the weak market, a company representative tells Kallanish.

“Due to the pandemic, we made a decision to pull our Q3 outages into Q2 while we are at what we believe to be the bottom of the market,” the spokesman says. The outage was completed last week and the unit ramped up.

This means the Slovakian steelmaker has returned to operating with two of its three blast furnaces after idling 125,000 net tonnes/month capacity pig iron capacity BF no.2 last summer due to higher costs and lower demand in Europe. The firm says it is “…looking forward to demand returning to restart the third blast furnace.”

It is not, however, looking forward to the safeguard review proposed by the European Commission. “Once again, the government in Brussels by their actions has shown they do not support the home steel industry, and all of our employees and the employees of the many businesses that depend on the European union steel industry,” the spokesman explains. “The Covid pandemic has crippled the manufacturing sector, and the demand for steel in the EU is down 50%, and the EC continues to allow unfairly traded imports to flow in.”

EU member states approved the steel safeguard quota revision proposal presented by the European Commission at the end of May to the World Trade Organisation (see Kallanish passim). The biggest changes proposed have been the calculation of all country-specific quotas on a quarterly basis as well as changes to the way residual quotas can be used. Hot rolled coil quotas are also set to be strongly impacted as they will be moved from global to country-specific.

USSK reported a -25% on-year slump in deliveries in the first quarter to 801,000 net tons. Raw steel capacity utilisation fell -24% to 882,000nt, giving a capacity utilisation of 71% versus 94% a year earlier.