How Steel is Made

With all the discussion recently about prices of odd raw materials like coke and iron ore, I thought it might be good to provide some info on how steel is made, so this discussion can be better understood.

Dofasco, a local steel supplier just an hour down the road from us, has this interactive guide to how they make steel.

UK Steel has an excellent set of 4 flow diagrams and corresponding text descriptions. They talk about how the steel is made and common uses for the resulting steel.

[updated] here are the articles I promised earlier in the week:

  • Steel.org (American Iron & Steel Institute) How steel is made (quite a series of articles. If you’re a visual person, like me, some of these articles are long on words and short on diagrams, but others are easier on the eyes)
  • Key-to-Steel.com has this article on Steel Making Processes
  • Steelprofiles.com How Steel is Made article (certain parts of this web site are off limits unless you subscribe … )
  • IISI (International Iron & Steel Institute) worldsteel.org intro to steel in a question and answer format

Some things I learned:

  • Blast furnaces have been around since the 14th century.
  • The hot air blown in the bottom of the furnace (the “blast”) takes 6-8 seconds to get to the top(!)
  • The raw materials dumped in the top take 6-8 hours to descend to the bottom (probably fighting all that rising hot air going the other way).
  • 70% of the steels used in automotive production today did not exist 10 years ago

Here’s an amusing article about a university professor making microwave steel using 6 microwave ovens he bought at WalMart.

Wabush Mines strike shouldn’t affect Stelco production through balance of 2004: “Wabush Mines, one of Stelco’s raw material suppliers, is an iron ore operation in Labrador and Quebec jointly owned by Stelco (44.6%), Dofasco (28.57%) and Cliffs Mining (26.83%). […] On July 5, 2004, 575 members of Local 6285 of the USWA went on strike putting the operation on idle.

‘Because we have committed purchases and secure supply from other mining properties in which Stelco holds an ownership interest, our steel production should not be affected through the balance of 2004,’ said Stelco Chief Operating Officer, Colin Osborne.”

Yahoo! News – Steelmaker Dofasco expects to beat analysts’ profit estimates for Q2: “The steel market has enjoyed a resurgence in recent months, with companies benefiting from rising steel prices resulting from improved demand over last year. In the second quarter of 2003, Dofasco’s profits fell more than 40 per cent to $38.8 million amid an industry slump.

‘The quarter’s results will be better than expected as a result of continued strengthening in the pricing environment and continued very high market demand at both our Hamilton operations and at Gallatin Steel,’ Dofasco president and CEO Don Pether said in a statement. “