LORAIN — Testing of Republic Steel’s electric arc furnace is scheduled to begin this week.
The $85 million project has been delayed by a multi-million dollar fire Nov. 30 connected to the testing of the furnace, known as “hot commissioning.”
In addition, a utility building at the plant at 1827 E. 28th St., burned Tuesday. Firefighters said workers using a space heater to thaw frozen pipes caused the fire, which resulted in about $25,000 in damage.
Republic officials haven’t said exactly how much damage the Nov. 30 fire caused. However, Ted Thielens, a Republic executive vice president, wrote in a Friday email that damage from the Tuesday fire was “minimal,” and no one was hurt.
Thielens, who couldn’t be reached Sunday, wrote that cleanup and repair from the Nov. 30 fire was “nearly complete,” and the commissioning process would begin this week. Thielens said Republic hopes to activate the 150-ton, 50-foot-high furnace in February. Billet caster and steel refining production is scheduled for February, with bloom caster production to begin in March.
The project, behind schedule before the Nov. 30 fire, was supposed to create 450 new jobs. A Republic official said in November that about 300 people, including new hires and recalled workers, had been hired. Republic is receiving about $5 million in state tax breaks and $5.9 million in Lorain tax breaks for creating the jobs.
The furnace will replace the blast furnace idled in 2008 after the economic crash. The American auto industry’s rebound and increased fracking activity are credited for the increased demand for steel that resulted in the expansion.