March 28, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

ThyssenKrupp Sprints To Build Stainless Steel Melt Shop in Calvert

ThyssenKrupp Stainless proceeds on melt shop. Guido Stebner, director of the melt shop, discusses the project Thursday, March 24, 2011, in Mount Vernon, Ala.
(Press-Register, Mike Kittrell)

CALVERT, Ala. -- The race is back on at ThyssenKrupp AG's stainless steel melt shop.

The German steelmaker had planned to build the unit, which will melt scrap into new stainless steel, at the beginning of its $5 billion project in on the Mobile-Washington county line. But it put off construction to conserve cash during the global downturn.

Already having poured concrete foundations and structures, the stainless unit plans to begin erecting structural steel this week. It's a key milestone in the push to begin using the facility before the end of 2012.

The stainless unit shares the 3,600 acre site with a separately managed carbon unit. The melt shop will allow stainless to make its own steel for processing. The carbon side processes steel slabs produced in Brazil.

The stainless unit will have about one-third of the total employees on the site.

Guido Stebner, the director of the melt shop, said that ThyssenKrupp wants to start getting its money back from the unit as quickly as possible.

"When I came here in 2005, it was a timeline-driven project," he said. "Then it was budget-driven. Then cash flow-driven. Guess what? For the moment now, it's timeline-driven again."

The company plans double shifts, one for workers erecting steel, and another for workers pouring concrete and installing pipes, over the coming months. That's not only quicker, but safer, said Peter Elliott, who manages construction for the stainless unit. With separate shifts, cranes can't drop steel on people doing other work.

Workers have poured massive concrete footings and buried them with fill dirt. The melt shop does not have a basement underneath its whole, like the carbon unit's hot strip mill, in part because key components will be elevated well off the ground.

ThyssenKrupp expects that it will take eight months to install all the steel. The steel is being fabricated by Qualico Steel Co., which is based near Dothan, and the first 100-ton column is expected to go up on Wednesday. The melt shop will eventually be even taller than the 230-foot high hot-dip galvanizing line that can be seen from U.S. 43.

The melt shop will enclose 377,000 square feet, double the size of an average Walmart Supercenter. Those massive columns will be 95 feet apart, supporting 100-ton girders. Elliott said that's a much longer span between columns than at the nearby SSAB mill, for example.

"It's less interference to have more open spaces," Stebner said.

The company is installing piping and designing other systems that could eventually allow it to build a second melt shop phase, which would allow ThyssenKrupp to double its planned capacity of 1 million tons. Companies that already produce stainless steel in the United States have worried that the first phase alone will produce a glut of the material in the domestic market.

The melt shop, projected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, is one of the last major construction projects on the ThyssenKrupp site. Elliott said building later means ThyssenKrupp has identified contractors that performed well on earlier sections. "We found the contractors that are safe and trustworthy," he said.

He said the stainless unit has also cut some of its projects into smaller pieces, helping Alabama contractors to win more work.

ThyssenKrupp has also installed temporary drains underneath the melt shop, to prevent it from becoming a mudhole like some earlier parts of the project.

There are 300 construction workers now at the melt shop site, a number the stainless unit expects to rise to 1,100. That increase comes as the overall number of construction workers at the site is well off its peak of more than 6,000. ThyssenKrupp itself is on the cusp of hiring its 2,000th employee, on the way to a projected 2,700.

The sprint to build and staff the melt shop will push the company toward the hiring goal, as ThyssenKrupp tries to start production in time to catch a recovery in steel demand.

"The economy is picking up; we are selling product out of our cold-rolling mill," Stebner said. "There is no time to lose."

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