ArcelorMittal is investing $140 million into the 80-inch hot strip rolling mill at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor on the Lake Michigan shore in Porter County.
The steelmaker is installing two new walking beam furnaces that "walk" slabs through the furnace instead of pushing them, eliminating surface defects.
“Surface quality is critical to all customers, especially automakers,” said Jean Louis Muller, senior division manager, hot rolling and finishing, for ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor and Columbus. “The walking beam furnaces will greatly reduce the risk of defects before the product ever reaches the customer. This decrease in the number of imperfections will reduce quality issues for our automotive customers who now do most of their inspections at the end of the car assembly process.”
Each walking beam furnace will be able to produce 500 tons of steel per hour, a 40 percent increase in productivity.
“These new walking beam furnaces replace three existing pusher furnaces that each had 300 tons per hour capacities,” said Jeff Cox, operations technology manager of the 80-inch hot strip mill. “In addition to improved quality, other benefits include increased hot mill yield, improved fuel efficiency, elimination of coke oven gas at the hot mill and avoiding substantial maintenance costs from the existing aging furnaces.”
The current pusher furnaces at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor remain in operation, while construction work has started on the new furnace foundations. The furnace and roll line foundation build-out is expected to be finished this spring.
The new equipment will then be installed at the former Bethlehem Steel mill, which was the last major integrated steel mill to be built in the United States, going up during the 1960s.
ArcelorMittal expects to start up both of the new furnaces at the hot strip mill by the fourth quarter of 2020 with full production starting in early 2021.
The Luxembourg-based steelmaker, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, estimates it has invested an average of $250 million per year in its U.S. operations over the last five years.