voestalpine plans state-of-the-art steel plant in Austria

Austrian steelmaker voestalpine AG has announced that it will be constructing a state-of-the-art, high-tech, 205kt/yr steel plant in the city of Kapfenberg, Austria.

In 1970 Kapfenberg in Austria's Styria region hosted the European Team Chess Championship and the Soviet Union walked away with the top prize. Up until now that is probably the most high-profile piece of news coming out of the region's third largest city, with a population of just over 23,000.

Today, however, Austrian steelmaker voestalpine has announced that it will be building 'the most advanced special steel plant in the world' in Kapfenburg. The company plans to invest up to EUR350 million on a facility that will supply some of the most demanding customer segments. The new plant will replace an existing plant from 2021, says the steelmaker.

The demanding customers are the international aerospace, automotive and oil and gas industries and the good news for Kapfenburg is that the new plant will secure around 3,000 jobs, thanks to such a major investment by voestalpine's High Performance Metals Division.

Work will commence on a site adjacent to the current plant before the year end, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony next year and in 2021 the new plant will replace Kapfenburg's existing Böhler special steel plant. Böhler, incidentally is Kapfenburg's main employer.

According to Wolfgang Eder, chairman of the managing board of voestalpine AG, the company is 'driving new technology and quality standards in high-performance steels with the construction of the new plant. He said that the investment is exceptional not only for Austria, but also for Europe. "The decisive factor was the people: in the end our employees, with their extensive expertise and their commitment, were a stronger argument that all the critical aspects," Eder explained.

That said, Eder said he hoped that recently issued climate and energy policy framework conditions would remain unchanged going forward. "Only with a sustained and predictable industrial policy which is more than just an electoral promise will we, as a company, be able to create and preserve safe and attractive jobs over the long term," he added.

Once operational, the new plant will make it possible to fully automate the production of tool steels and special steels, which are 'starting materials' for processing into extremely high-load bearing and weight-saving aircraft parts, robust tools for the automotive industry, equipment for oil and gas exploration and for manufacturing components using 3D printing.

Franz Rotter, member of the management board of the Austrian steelmaker said that the new plant will give voestalpine an 'unparalleled, global innovative edge'. "We have always been aware of the strength of our traditional base in Kapfenberg; the question was it's economic efficiency in light of the global competition," Rotter said, adding that the decision to locate the plant in Kapfenberg will secure a healthy future for the company's 3,000 employees and their families.

In addition to its high-tech credentials, the plant will also be the 'global benchmark for environmental and energy efficiency. Closed cooling water circuits and efficient heat recovery and de-dusting systems will help conserve resources and minimise emissions. The plant's electric arc furnace will be operated by electricity generated from 100% renewable sources. Ultra-pure scrap and alloys will be melted down into liquid materials.