Letter to the editor: Electric furnaces & steel
The Bessemer process for making steel was invented in 1856 and was used by Andrew Carnegie in his Mon Valley operations. Today’s blast furnaces/coke batteries that are used in U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley operations are just an updated version of the Bessemer process and are thus archaic technology. Maybe U.S. Steel should go back to Metallurgy 101 and rethink its whole Mon Valley operation technology.
U.S. Steel has a number of competitors in the country that use electric furnaces to produce steel. Electric furnaces aren’t exactly new technology either, but converting to a major electric furnace shop would produce changes and advantages. The coal that is now coked could be burned to produce electricity, be replaced by the locally abundant natural gas as a cogen plant or renewable electric power, or any combination of the three. In any event, the operational carbon footprint would be substantially reduced.
The Clairton coke ovens, the hellhole that they are, could be shut down and dismantled, thus avoiding any further investment and operational and environmental problems and fines.
Electric furnaces have a secondary benefit of being able to use scrap metal. There’s probably a million junk cars in the area that could be shredded and consumed in electric furnaces. The electric furnace route would be much more expensive than the current thinking, but it could be done in stages and would end up much more acceptable.
Penn Township, Westmoreland County