Monday, June 8, 2020

Pete's Question

In the comments, Pete asked if the United States even made steel anymore. They answer is yes. Not as much as before and a lot less steel from raw materials. U.S. Steel Corporation has survived and has several mills. This chart is thousands of tons by year for steel made in the United States since 1970. What appears as a sharp drop in 2020 is just because we are only to June.

From a high of almost 12,000,000 tons, we have stabilized around 7,000,000 tons for the last several years. We do import steel, about 17% of steel used in the U.S. is imported.


There are 9 operational integrated mills. Those are mills that can start with raw ore and process it into iron and then into steel. From there, further working of steel into various shapes from I beams to thin sheets in huge rolls can either be done on site or sent on to manufacturing plants elsewhere. This is a more modern process than the direct reduction blast furnaces of the past. The last one of those shut down in 2012.

There are over a hundred specialty or mini-mills running in the country.  These mills normally use scrap steel and iron as a source material and the furnaces are heated with electricity.

And just because I found this, here's U.S. Steel in it's heyday. There's no date on the video, but near the end they show a stamping press turning out a fender with a big fin on it, dating it to the late 1950s. This is the whole process from ore to soup cans.


FredLewers said...

I just poured concrete safety ends on my driveway culvert. Therebar is all Turkish steel. Not real happy but at least it's not Chinese steel.

Beans said...

The modern mills use huge amounts of electricity to smelt the product.

Huge Amounts.

Like, need a non-renewable power source to meet their energy needs.

A good view of a modern specialty mill is in "Terminator 2."

Pete said...

Thank you - great information. I remember when I was a kid there was a Kaiser steel plant in Fontana (Southern California). It created a lot of air pollution as I recall. We used to pass it when heading out to the desert to hunt rabbits...

libertyman said...

Excellent video -- looks like a 1959 Chevrolet rear fender there. Have a look at Mike Rowe's visit to a steel maker on "Dirty Jobs" to see how it is done on a somewhat smaller scale via electric arc furnaces.
Look at the upfront investment to make steel. The bar to entry is very high, to say the least. Look how dangerous it is in every aspect of production. It looks like the boss is doing everything by eye as they shovel some amount of alloying materials in the furnace. When he puts his cigarette down! I can imagine what the air was like to breathe there. Plus bombs to start the pour!
An impressive production for something we just take for granted.

McChuck said...

Remember the Obama ammunition drought? That's when the last lead smelting plant was shut down by the EPA.