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ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor investing $19 million into coke battery rebuild

Workers repair the roof of the No. 2 coke battery at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor in Porter County.

ArcelorMittal is investing $19.25 million into rebuilding the No. 2 coke battery at its ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor steel mill on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Porter County.

The No. 2 battery has produced more than 900,000 tons of coke — a purified form of coal that's burned as a main input in the steelmaking process — for the two blast furnaces at Burns Harbor and ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago. It was last rebuilt in 1994.

Repairs will take place over the next five years to keep the coke battery at full production and spare ArcelorMittal an estimated cost of up to $50 million to buy metallurgic coke the spot market for its Northwest Indiana's steel mills.

The coke plant was long overdue for repairs, Nagendra Singh, the process manager in operations technology for the coke plant at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, wrote in a post on ArcelorMittal USA's website.

"At age 45, it needs a facelift," he wrote. "In 1974, Stephen King’s first novel, 'Carrie,' was published, Atari released Pong, 'The Godfather II' was number one at the box office and ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor completed construction on the No. 2 coke battery. Now, it’s getting a much-needed rebuild."

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Workers have been making repairs to the roof, where the brickwork and tie-rods had been rising above their design elevation because of expansion stresses. They have demolished several small sections of the roof and found they will need to replace two to three layers of brick.

Thus far, workers have repaired a total of 13 coke ovens at the steel mill, in as little as seven days apiece. Singh forecasts the project will be completed on time and within budget by 2022.

"These repairs are essential in maintaining the highest level of productivity and potentially extending its life beyond the expected 50-year life cycle," Singh wrote. "The work will allow the No. 2 battery to continue meeting the coke demands of ArcelorMittal USA, including transfers to Indiana Harbor."

Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the largest steelmaker in the world by volume and one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, is the only Northwest Indiana steelmaker to produce coke in the Region since U.S. Steel shuttered its coke battery at Gary Works in 2015, and started shipping in coke from western Pennsylvania.

ArcelorMittal also is investing $140 million in the 80-inch hot strip rolling mill at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, where it's been installing two new walking beam furnaces that "walk" slabs through the furnace instead of pushing them, eliminating surface defects. 

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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.