The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford AM, was this morning due to (7:30am) visit Tata Steel’s Port Talbot site following the completion of a major project to extend the operational life of one of its two blast furnaces.

Tata Steel Europe has completed work on extending the operational life of its two Port Talbot blast furnaces.

The multi-millon pound project concluded with an on-site visit by the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford AM.

According to Tata Steel Europe, the ‘life extension’ of blast furnace number five was a critical part of the steelmaker’s long-term strategy to strengthen its operations in the UK, ‘underpinning improvements throughout its UK supply chain’.

The giant furnace was drained in the autumn in order to carry out vital engineering work, extending its life by five to seven years. Following the relighting of the furnace, the first iron has now been produced and turned into a finished steel product before being delivered to a manufacturing business in the UK.

Mark Drakeford AM was joined on site by Hans Fischer, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, who said: “We are delighted to welcome the First Minister to Port Talbot to see the biggest single investment we have made here for more than five years. This project demonstrates our commitment to building a stronger and more sustainable steelmaking business in the UK, now and in the future.”

Once the heart of the furnace, which is normally more than 1,200 deg C, cooled last year, skilled engineers replaced part of the heat resistant interior and vital structural parts. The waste gas and dust extraction system was also replaced. The final part of the process involved the hot blast main being opened, injecting air at 1,100deg C and bringing the furnace ‘roaring back to life’.

Confirmation of this project came at the same time as the announcement in June 2018 of definitive agreements being signed by thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel to form a joint venture of their European steel businesses.