SBQ steelmaker Gerdau reported that its extensive capital-improvement program for the Monroe, MI, mini-mill is proceeding: a new four-strand billet caster was completed at the end of 2012 and is operating now, and construction is underway for a new vacuum degasser there.
Gerdau’s North American special steel division produces special bar quality (SBQ) steel for automotive, commercial vehicle, and other markets, including forging ingots. It produces steel at electric mini-mills in Jackson and Monroe, MI, and Fort Smith, AR, and it processes steel products at five more locations.
At Monroe, both the caster and the degasser were designed and built by Danieli, the Italian plant engineering group. The entire program is valued at $155.6 million, Gerdau indicated.
The new four-strand continuous casting machine (designed to accommodate a fifth strand in future) has a 10-m radius and casts 6- and 7-in. square billets, and 254- and 325-mm diameter rounds. The machine started operation in November 2012, and commissioning was completed in May 2013.
“Gerdau is committed to continuous improvement and the new caster is part of a larger project that will increase the quality of steel we produce for our customers,” stated Jay Murthy, director of technical services and product development for Gerdau’s North American special steel division.
Phase Two in Progress
The second phase of the project will be a twin-tank vacuum degasser with a mechanical pump system. The present vacuum degasser will be converted to a ladle metallurgy furnace, according to Danieli.
Construction began for the new vacuum degasser in July, and the new vessel is scheduled to start in March 2014.
In addition to the new melt shop equipment, Gerdau is expanding the production capacity of its rolling mill by installing six more rolling mill stands and a new walking-beam reheat furnace. Those projects will be completed in the second quarter of 2014.
In May 2012, Gerdau decided to add to the Monroe capital program to expand the mill’s product straightening and quality inspection capabilities. This phase of the project is scheduled to be complete in October 2014.
When the entire capital program is completed in late 2014, Gerdau’s Monroe production capacity will top 800,000 tons per year.
“Completion of this project will enable us to meet the growing demands of our customers so we can continue to be their SBQ supplier of choice,” stated Jack Finlayson, president of Gerdau’s North American special steel division.
The steelmaker noted that over 700contractors and approximately 200,000 man-hours have been invested in these projects since 2012. Gerdau emphasized that the Monroe mini-mill recently passed the one-year market with no a -time accidents
“Safety is a core value at Gerdau, so we take this accomplishment very seriously,” stated Monroe plant manager Bruce Black. “This shows that the safety initiatives we’ve implemented are working, especially considering all the moving people and parts during this physical transformation.”
Gerdau’s Fort Smith, AR, mill also passed the one-year mark without a lost-time accident recently.