LORAIN — The heat is on figuratively and literally for Republic Steel’s new electric arc furnace.
A test run of the furnace occurred Monday, Mark Huemme, Republic director of marketing, said Tuesday. The furnace is part of an approximately $85 million, 450-job expansion.
When the project was announced in 2011, Republic officials said they hoped to have the furnace operational by August. Ground was broken for construction last November at the plant at 1807 E. 28th St., and Republic officials said in April that they hoped to have the 150-ton, 50-foot high furnace delivered from China in May.
Huemme said he didn’t have a specific date the furnace will become full operational, but it will be soon.
“Certainly, the pressure’s on because we are starting this a little bit later than we planned,” he said. “We’ve got to get this thing up and running pretty quickly.”
In a Tuesday news release, about the “hot commissioning,” Republic said the initial heats will be cast into 6-inch by 6-inch billets and will be rolled on a 9/10-inch rolling mill. Production on the billet caster is expected to increase over the next several months with bloom cast production beginning in February.
The project will provide more than 1 million tons of steel annually for the production of bloom and billet cast semi-finished, bar and coil products, the release said.
Huemme said about 300 people, including new hires and recalled workers, have been hired so far as part of the expansion. Republic is receiving about $5 million in state tax breaks and $5.9 million in Lorain tax breaks for creating 450 new jobs. The jobs are in addition to the approximately 490 hourly and management workers at the plant.
The furnace will replace the blast furnace idled in 2008 after the economic crash. The American auto industry rebound and increased fracking are credited for the resurgence.
In the release, Republic CEO Jaime Vigil said the project demonstrates Republic’s commitment to customer expectations. “It’s an exciting day for our Lorain plant,” he said.