On October 20th, U.S. Steel in Fairfield commenced its first successful test of the new Electric Arc Furnace (EAF). But what is an EAF, and what does it mean for U.S. Steel in Fairfield? Here’s what we know.
U.S. Steel announces Fairfield’s new Electric Arc Furnace
According to The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Pittsburg-based U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works is the largest producer of new raw steel in the Southeast, creating about 6,000 tons of molten iron each day.
On October 26th, U.S. Steel announced the launch of its new, advanced Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steelmaking facility at its Fairfield branch. The project, which replaced the old blast furnace at Fairfield, was originally announced in 2015, but had taken a halt due to economic limitations.
Five years later, the EAF steelmaking facility is up and running. In order to build the facility, U.S. Steel invested $412 million into the project. Now that the EAF facility is up and running, U.S. Steel estimates that it will be able to make 1.6 million tons of steel each year.
But what is an Electric Arc Furnace?
When I think of steelmaking, my mind immediately jumps to Sloss Furnaces. A blast furnace, like the ones at Sloss, is a huge steel stack lined with heat-resistant brick. Inside, workers dump iron ore, coke and limestone onto the top, while pre-heated air is pumped into the bottom. In the next 6 to 8 hours, the raw materials melt to the bottom of the furnace, becoming steel.
Now, let’s talk about an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF). As the name suggests, an EAF utilizes an electric arc—like the ones you’d see in an arc welder—to heat raw materials. According to U.S. Steel, the EAF method of steelmaking utilizes electrical energy to melt steel for further use in three steps:
- First, workers bring recycled scrap steel into the furnace.
- Then, the EAF heats the steel using electric arcs.
- Finally, the scrap is melted into liquid steel, which can be used for a variety of products.
EAFs offer a number of benefits for steelmakers. For starters, the EAF will allow U.S. Steel to make new steel from 100% scrap metal, greatly reducing the energy cost when making steel from iron ore. Another benefit is flexibility—an EAF can be started and stopped quickly, so U.S. Steel can respond to market demand. The older blast furnace would need to stay in production 24/7, as shutting down the process damages the furnace. Finally—at a temperature of 3,000 degrees—an EAF can process steel in less than an hour.
All in all, the new Electric Arc Furnace will allow Fairfield Works to create their product in a safer, quicker and more sustainable manner.