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Emboldened U.S. Steel revived electric arc furnace project in Alabama

U.S. Steel, whose Gary Works facility is shown, is so encouraged by market conditions that it's looking to restart an electric arc furnace project in Alabama.

After nearly tripling its annual profit to $1.1 billion, an encouraged U.S. Steel announced last week it would revive an idled electric-weld pipe mill in Texas and announced Monday it would restart a $215 million electric arc furnace project it had shelved in Alabama during the depth of the steel industry downturn four years ago.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, one of the largest industrial employers in Northwest Indiana, started construction of the electric arc furnace, which would be capable of producing 1.6 million tons of steel per year, in March of 2015. It halted the project in December 2015 because of an import crisis that flooded America with cheap foreign-made steel that resulted in thousands of layoffs and many idled mills nationwide.

But market conditions have since improved, and tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel have lifted prices. Now U.S. Steel plans to complete the mini-mill furnace in Fairfield, Alabama, modernize the existing rounds caster and hire 150 workers

“We are pleased to announce the achievement of the market and performance stage gates required to restart our Tubular Segment EAF," U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt said. "This investment is an important step to improve our cost structure and positions our tubular business to win over the long-term. We are committed to investing in the sustainable steel technology required to be a value-added tubular solutions provider for our customers."

Last year, U.S. Steel also restarted two blast furnaces at Granite City Works in Illinois, near St. Louis, bringing 1,500 steelworkers back to work.

Construction will start immediately on the electric arc furnace in Alabama, which is expected to begin producing steel rounds in the second half of next year.

U.S. Steel said it received incentives from the state of Alabama and Jefferson County to restart the project.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.