Voestalpine leaves one Donawitz furnace idle

The blast furnace at voestalpine’s Donawitz plant that has been relined in recent months will not be put back into operation for the time being, the firm says. Donawitz has two blast furnaces with a combined capacity of 1.5 million tonnes/year of pig iron.

At the group’ strip mill in Linz, one furnace was temporarily taken out of operation during the first Covid-19 wave in spring, and restarted in late August. Linz is now back to full operation, meaning a utilisation of 90% or more.

Against that, the products typically produced by voestalpine’s Metal Engineering division using steel from Donawitz, such as drawing-quality wire and seamless tube, are still suffering from low demand. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, the group stated that production in this segment via the oxygen route means a cost disadvantage especially for long products. Competitors in these segments mainly use electric furnace technology for producing semi-finished product.

Voestalpine chief executive Herbert Eibensteiner noted during a conference call monitored by Kallanish that the firm has mastered the crisis “…better than competitors”. During the first Covid-19 wave, 10,000 of its Austrian staff registered for short-time work; that figure had come down to some 2,500 at the end of the second fiscal quarter (July-September).

Since the end of the reporting period, many EU member states have re-imposed lockdowns of varying severity, “…and the impact of that cannot be foreseen in detail”, the company states. “What is certain, however, is that the uncertainty regarding forecasts of future developments is much greater now.”