UK’s largest blast furnace was relit on 15 April 2012 after 26 months of being idled.

Thailand’s largest steel company, Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) purchased the former Corus furnace from India’s Tata Steel in March 2011 for $469M.

Tata Steel mothballed the furnace and steel shop with the loss of 1600 jobs in February 2010 following the main customer for its output, a consortium consisting of Italy’s Marcegaglia SpA, South Korea’s Dongkuk Steel Mill Co, Luxembourg-based Ternium SA and Swiss- Italian steelmaker Duferco Participations Holding Ltd walking away from a long-term deal to take deliveries of 80% of the steel slab produced at the Teesside complex, following the fall in demand in 2009 during the worldwide financial crisis which became evident in Q4 2008. Eventually, Tata Steel were awarded $130M as settlement from the violators of the 10-year contract.

The assets covered by the sale to SSI include the Redcar Blast Furnace, the Redcar and South Bank coke ovens, TCP’s power generation facilities and sinter plant, and the Lackenby steelmaking and casting facilities.

The deal also includes Tata Steel and SSI entering into a joint venture to operate Redcar Wharf (TCP’s bulk terminal), giving Tata Steel the flexibility to use Teesside to serve its other steelmaking operations, while also meeting SSI’s requirements on Teesside.

The reopening of the 3.6Mt/y furnaces has created 1700 jobs on the site and has cost around £2M for refurbishing the furnace and other parts of the site. The restart was postponed from December due to problems with the supply of copper staves for the blast furnace. Later this year pulverised coal injection is to be installed to reduce running costs. Previously the furnace was using oil injection to lower coke consumption.

Initially, daily output is planned for over 8000t/day increasing this to 10000t/d by the end of 2012. The iron will be converted into steel at the Lackenby steelshop and cast as slab for export to SSI Thailand where it will be rolled to coil. Value added steels will also be produced some of which will be offered for sale on the merchant market.

The first steel slab is expected to be cast on Tuesday 17 April.

The link below provides a video clip from the BBC of the relighting of the furnace.