Steelmaking set to return to complex

Tata Steel, Stocksbridge.
Tata Steel, Stocksbridge.
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METALS giant Tata has unveiled plans which mean steel making restarts in Stockbridge – seven years after its last electric arc furnace shut down.

Tata has taken the first steps towards what could be an investment running into tens of millions of pounds in new technology, capable of producing ultra-high purity aerospace steels from scratch.

Tata hit the headlines last week after it revealed plans to axe more than 120 jobs at its South Yorkshire plants, blaming a decline in demand in its bar business.

This new announcement could mean new posts, although the firm said it was too soon to say whether the plans could result in new jobs.

Tata has revealed it is working with steel technology group SMS Mevac to develop what would be the first Vacuum Induction Melted steels facility at its South Yorkshire plants.

Ever since the Stocksbridge electric arc furnace was scrapped, the plant has been supplied with steel ingots made at Tata’s Rotherham plant and has then boosted their purity, to make them suitable for aerospace applications.

The company has also bought steel ingots made using the VIM process by other companies, but is now considering installing its own VIM plant, which would take high-purity raw materials and turn them into steel.

Richard Bell, Tata Speciality Steels commercial director, said: “Our aerospace customers have been eager to see Tata make a solid commitment to them by expanding its capability and integrating VIM into its existing UK asset structure.”

n Vacuum Induction Melting involves melting high-purity recycled steel, extracting trace elements in a low-pressure vacuum and casting the purified liquid steel into ingot moulds.