November-December 2017 – Do steelmakers dream of electric arc furnaces?

I drove all the way from Memphis, Tennessee, to Osceola, Arkansas, and I got a lot more than a lousy tee-shirt. I got an exclusive interview with Dave Stickler, CEO of Big River Steel (BRS), the most technologically advanced steel minimill on the planet, thanks to the combined efforts of the company and its technology supplier, SMS group of Germany.

It was always going to be an interesting encounter as Big River Steel is the talk of the town (and the world) in a big country where electric steelmaking rules the roost (accounting for 69% of all US steel production). Stickler is the electric warrior, the  metal guru, the ‘new kid on the block’ of EAF steelmaking, and the David to the integrated steel mills’ Goliath.

When Betty Hutton and Howard Keel sang Anything You Can Do in Annie Get Your Gun, little did they know that the song title would prove relevant to the phoney war that exists between integrated steelmakers and their ‘friends electric’.

In 1980 when Nucor Corporation announced it was going to make flat-rolled steel, the integrated community gasped, like the Toecutter in Mad Max One, and countered that EAFs – ‘those meddlin’ kids’ – were good for just one thing: making garbage cans. How wrong they were! These days in America, electric steelmaking is clearly the leader of the pack.

BRS was designed with a clean sheet of paper to produce steels that, prior to the company’s arrival, had never been produced by a minimill. In short, BRS has adopted the motto of the Starship Enterprise, ‘to boldy go where no EAF steelmaker has gone before’, and soon it will be producing fully processed, grain oriented steels and more. 

The key to the current and future success of BRS is its Flex Mill, which enables the company to compete not only with other minimills, but also with integrated steelmakers. Stickler has his sights firmly set on a variety of new markets including that of electric vehicles and their charging stations too.

Is this the beginning of the end of integrated mills? Some say yes, but others believe there will always be a place for ‘virgin steel’. That said, today less than 45% of flat-rolled steel is produced by integrated steel mills. In 10 years it will probably be less than 35%, says Stickler.

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November-December 2017 – Do steelmakers dream of electric arc furnaces? highlights

2 Leader by Matthew Moggridge, editor, Steel Times International

4 News

6 Innovations – some of the latest new products for steel manufacturers

11 USA Update

13 Latin America Update

16 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Dave Stickler, CEO, Big River Steel

24 Big River Steel Profile – Q&A for SMS group

26 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Philip K Bell, president, Steel Manufacturers' Association

30 Minimills in the USA by Myra Pinkham

34 Coatings by Fives Group

38 Perspectives Q&A – William Capizzano, Chemcoaters

40 History by Dr. Tim Smith, consultant editor, Steel Times International