ArcelorMittal plans to temporarily idle the #2 blast furnace (BF) at its French steelworks in Fos-sur-Mer over the next few weeks.
The decision is in response to the vacuum in steel consumption, particularly from the automotive industry in southern Europe, over the past month.
The company blew down its #1 BF at Fos-sur-Mer on March 23 for similar reasons a week after the containment and restrictive measures were introduced across Europe, particularly in France, Italy, and Spain – which make up 80pc of the plant’s order book.
While the #2 BF will be shutdown over a period of a few weeks, there is some concern among the 2,500 employees and local unions that eventually bringing the #1 BF back online could be challenging given the abrupt manner in which it was shut down.
Moreover, the same stakeholders are equally concerned that the shutdowns could become permanent given the huge costs and investments associated with restarting the blast furnaces and coke ovens.
ArcelorMittal has defined three conditions that need to be met to resume operations: the COVID-19 outbreak comes under control within its geographical perimeter, steel consumption returns to a critical minimum level, and a sufficient level of investment is injected.
According to the company’s website, the Fos-sur-Mer facility produced more than 3.84mn mt of crude steel in 2019, compared with a slated operational capacity of 4.6mn mt per annum and a hot strip plant capable of producing up to 5mn mt of flat steel.
The Fos-sur-Mer facility consists of a discharging/loading quay, a sinter plant, a coke plant, two blast furnaces, two basic oxygen converters, two continuous casters, an in-ladle metallurgy treatment installation, a hot strip mill, and finishing lines.