ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, is to invest around 96 million Euros on two steel plants in France.

The company plans to spend 67 million Euros on a new automotive steels production line in Florange as part of a strategy to have a centre of excellence for auto steels in the Lorraine region of France.

The 67 million Euros will be spent on a 600kt production line that will be integrated with a hot strip mill and pickling line and will be capable of producing Usibor 2000 and Ductibor 1000 steels, claims ArcelorMittal. The line will be operational by mid-2019 and will employ 75 people, including 20 newly created roles.

The new line will produce advanced high strength steels (AHSS) and replace an existing electro-galvanising line.

One of the main reasons behind this development is ArcelorMittal’s desire to take a leading market position in the AHSS marketplace. It is for this reason that Usibor 2000 was developed and the new plant will enable the company to meet increasing demand for it.

The reason why the electro-galvanising line is going is simple: demand is shrinking, says ArcelorMittal as automakers demand more AHSS. Florange’s electro-zinc coating line has been operating below its capacity of 300kt so demand for these products will continue to be met by Arcelor’s three other electrogalvanising lines in Belgium (at Marchin and Genk) and in Luxembourg (at Dudelange).

Wim Van Gerven, ArcelorMittal’s CEO of Business Division North, said that the investment would mean a better service for the company’s customers. “We want to be in a position to produce [AHSS] commercially as soon as possible and this investment puts us in a strong position to be able to do this,” he said.

ArcelorMittal plans to invest 29 million Euros at its plant in Dunkerque ‘to deliver technical improvements that will provide greater flexibility for high value-added products’.

The plan is to modify an existing vacuum degassing unit, add steel desulphurisation and install a better a slag retention system on the converters. These projects will be operational by Q4 2018 and will increase the steel shop’s ability to produce low-sulphur, low-phosphorus and low nitrogen content steel grades, which is what the automotive industry is demanding these days.

Eric Niedziela, CEO of ArcelorMittal Atlantique and Lorraine, said the investment at Dunkerque was in line with the company’s strategy and an important step towards the business achieving its performance objectives.