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  • 22 June 2020
  • News

LIBERTY Steel Group accelerates GREENSTEEL strategy in the UK as it prepares for post-pandemic economy

LIBERTY Steel UK (“LSUK”) today reaffirms its commitment to the UK as it sets out the next phase of its GREENSTEEL strategy with investment programmes focussed on an evolving market demand and gaps in the domestic supply chain.

LSUK has made substantial investments in the Rotherham steel operations it acquired three years ago from Tata Steel, when the business was producing just 225,000 tonnes per annum. On 16th Feb 2018, HRH Prince Charles switched on the second Electric Arc Furnace, the “N Furnace” at Rotherham, and inspired Sanjeev Gupta’s GREENSTEEL mission. This together with various upgrades to the plant has enabled the business to more than double production at Rotherham to over 500,000 tonnes per annum.

LSUK today announces that it will further boost production at Rotherham to over 1mtpa through investments to expand its product mix and making more productive use of its rolling mills to target attractive market segments.

GREENSTEEL Product Development

UK market demand for reinforcement bar (rebar) amounts to c.1.2 million tonnes annually, worth over £500 million. At present, half of this demand is met by imports, despite there being a surplus of scrap metal recovered in the UK which could be recycled into new steel products through Electric Arc Furnace (EAFs).

Given this gap in the market and further growth in construction expected from infrastructure projects such as HS2, LSUK is targeting this market by expanding its GREENSTEEL* product range.

LSUK is extending the product range of its Thrybergh Bar Mill* at Rotherham to include the production of construction rebar from September 2020. There are also plans to add capability to produce wire rod to feed both engineering and construction markets. With this new product strategy, LSUK will supply UK produced GREENSTEEL into the pipeline of domestic infrastructure projects that will be vital to the UK’s recovery in the post-pandemic economy.

Commenting on the plans, LIBERTY Steel Group Executive Chairman, Sanjeev Gupta said:
“It has been three years since we acquired the business from Tata Steel and expanded steelmaking at Rotherham under our GREENSTEEL vision for the UK. Since then we’ve made vital upgrades to the plant, doubling production, and returned the business to profitability before it was affected by a Brexit impacted weak steel market in 2019 which has been followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we make plans for a post-pandemic economy, we have challenged ourselves to think differently across our product mix, assets and cost base to improve competitiveness and prepare for a new future. With the new developments at Thrybergh Bar Mill the business is well prepared to win a greater share of the construction market in the UK with a competitive GREENSTEEL rebar offering for projects such as HS2 which will lead to a significant boost in production at Rotherham.”

Commenting on the announcement, Roy Rickhuss CBE, General Secretary of Community union, said:

“At a challenging time for our steel industry LIBERTY reaffirming their commitment to the UK, while setting out an ambitious plan for the future, is extremely welcome. There is no doubt that steel will be vital to rebuilding and rebooting our economy and steel companies must be ready for the opportunities that will come. It is hugely encouraging that LIBERTY are investing so they can contribute to essential infrastructure projects like HS2 that will drive the recovery and create jobs. Community firmly believes LIBERTY’s strategy to displace steel imports is the right one, but we need government to support this by using procurement policy to ensure our domestic infrastructure is built with our own steel.”

Under plans announced across GFG Alliance to achieve 20-30% efficiency gains, LSUK is continuing with its turnaround plans at its Stocksbridge site which produces high value steels for demanding applications such as the aerospace industry.

LSUK’s energy pipe business in Hartlepool is currently working through its best orderbook position in over 6 years and the Performance Steels business in West Bromwich has exceeded planned sales of its steel strip for specialist saw and cutting blade applications. Other LSUK businesses in Dalzell, Newport and Scunthorpe have continued to work safely through the pandemic meeting customer demand efficiently.

Update on GREENSTEEL Hub Development at LIBERTY Steel Newport (“LSN”)

LSUK has recruited leading equipment provider Danieli to develop its longer-term plans for a GREENSTEEL hub at LSN, where the business already owns and operates a hot rolled coil (HRC) mill. The new GREENSTEEL hub would see investment in Danieli’s latest energy efficient Q-One Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) technology and other site upgrades to create a compact direct cast strip plant capable of producing 1.5-2mtpa thin gauge HRC for the UK market.

The development is contingent on a competitive investment environment and the completion of SIMEC Atlantis Energy’s* (SAE) sustainable power station conversion project at the adjacent Uskmouth power station in South Wales. The power station could feed the new development at LSN with competitive power, a key ingredient in LSUK’s GREENSTEEL strategy. SAE’s conversion project is the first in the world of its kind and is currently in an advanced state of conducting technical tests and planning approvals.

Commenting on LSUK’s Newport plans, Sanjeev Gupta, said:

“Carbon based steel was the foundation of the last industrial revolution, but we must now think differently to meet today’s challenges of decarbonisation and growing consumption of steel globally.

“By utilising the abundance of steel scrap in the UK and harnessing the opportunity that the Uskmouth power plant development brings to generate power from waste derived fuel pellets, we can create a highly competitive and sustainable GREENSTEEL hub in Newport. These plans could reduce emissions from steel making by as much as 80-90% vs the blast furnace production route using coal.

“LIBERTY’s steel and SIMEC’s energy together would form a truly circular economy. We would not only use the abundant supply of steel scrap in the UK that is currently exported only to return as steel made in other countries, we would also address a critical problem of end-of-life waste going into landfill.”

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