Tata Steel has announced a series of planned investments for its Port Talbot integrated steel mill in South Wales, UK.

The investments add up to £30 million and are designed to strengthen plant reliability and enable the development and production of high-performing steels.

According to Tata Steel, the investments will help meet the emerging need for next-generation steels for hybrid and electric cars, as well as for energy-efficient homes and buildings and innovative food packaging.

Earlier this year the company unveiled an advanced robotic steel welding line for its Wednesfield UK production facility in the West Midlands. The plant supplies material for car makers.

Next up is a 500-tonnes Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) vessel for the company’s Port Talbot site. The company is also replacing the massive cranes in the steelplant, and installing enhanced dust extraction hoods and energy-efficient drives to minimise emissions.

“These investments will help us to increase our reliability and demonstrate our commitment to the longer-term future of steelmaking in the UK,” said Bimlendra Jha, Tata Steel UK CEO.

“We are also investing in our capability to produce new higher-strength steels in the UK,” he said, adding that the steelmaker had taken on almost 100 new apprentices and graduates and was getting training supported from thegovernment.

According to Jha, the UK steel industry still faces challenges, including on energy costs and business rates. “So it’s vital we continue to work with government to find ways of levelling the competitive playing field with our European competitors,” he said.

The BOS vessel is an 11-metre high steel cauldron used to convert iron into steel before it is further processed and delivered to customers making products like cars, innovative packaging and energy-efficient buildings.

Port Talbot produces high-quality steel, which is further processed at Tata Steel’s steel mills around the UK for manufacturers in Britain, mainland Europe and other countries around the world.

Once installed, the new steelmaking vessel will be able to convert 330 tonnes of iron into steel in each cycle. This is done by pumping oxygen through liquid iron at twice the speed of sound, removing unwanted carbon and allowing Tata Steel’s employees to produce the critical grades of steel required by customers.

Dave Murray, project manager, commented: “We have two steelmaking vessels and they run 24/7 at temperatures of up to 1,700C, apart from short planned maintenance periods. Despite this they last for around 20 years each and replacing them is an important part of ensuring reliable operations.”