December 20, 2014

Elyria
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New Republic Steel furnace to double number of employees

LORAIN — An $85 million electric arc furnace that will result in a near doubling of the number of employees at the city’s Republic Steel plant is scheduled to be activated in the next several months.

Already, 110 new workers have been added to the roster of the East 28th Street complex and that number is expected to grow to 450, according to David Bascone, managing director of administration for Republic’s Lorain works.

“We’ve already made an initial expansion of the workforce,” Bascone said. “We will have a ramp-up period that will take us through part of the winter.’’

The majority of hiring will be done within the next year, Bascone said.

The $85 million electric arc furnace is seen as a key component in the anticipated revival of the city’s once-robust steel industry that has seen the sprawling steel-making complex change hands and names numerous times over the years.

Owned for decades by U.S. Steep Corp., the Republic Steel facility looks to add the remainder of the projected 450 new hires within the next couple of years, Bascone said.

“We will start to activate the furnace during the fourth quarter of the year,” according to Mark Huemme, director of marketing for Republic Steel in Canton. “We’re in the process of pulling it together.”

That hasn’t been easy.

“It’s like every father’s worst Christmas Eve nightmare,’’ he said. “There’s some assembly required.”

Components of the furnace were manufactured in China and shipped to the U.S. for construction.

Some 250 to 300 workers are building the new furnace, which will stand about 50 feet high. It will produce liquid steel that will be sold and shipped by rail cars to U.S. Steel’s Lorain Tubular Operations located next to the Republic Steel plant.

There the semi-finished steel will be poured into a casting unit from which solid round pipe emerges that will eventually be used in the drilling of natural gas and oil.

“This project is mainly the result of an increase in demand for natural gas and oil in the energy industry” due largely to the growing popularity of natural gas and oil fracking, Bascone said.

Fracking – a process in which underground rock is broken apart to release oil and natural gas by being blasted with sand and chemically-treated water – has been on the rise in eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York in recent years.

The controversial practice is presently on hold in New YorkState due to environmental worries over long-term consequences including increased global warming from release of methane gas, and contamination of well water.

An electric arc furnace uses an alternating electric current to produce heat which is passed through steel and other metals for faster, more efficient steel production.

The new furnace is expected to provide in excess of 1 million tons of liquid steel which is produced from melted scrap, Bascone said.

It replaces a blast furnace shut down in 2008 when a growing recession cooled demand for steel products.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.