The $280 million electric arc furnace project in Alabama proposed by U.S. Steel Corporation has been delayed until “market conditions improve,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Pittsburgh-based company announced the move in late December after they saw the uncertainty in the market beginning to unravel.
“The company continues to feel the effect of these energy market conditions, along with low steel prices and continued high levels of imports,” U.S. Steel said in its press release on the matter.
The company has assured investors and customers that this move will not affect their current operations or abilities, but it does put a damper on residents of Fairfield, AL, where the furnace was set to be built at the company’s Fairfield Works location. That mill, which is being closed in a related move by the company, will impact more than 1,000 employees, according to AL.com.
When it eventually does get completed, the new furnace is expected to be an important part of making the company more efficient overall. The furnace will be able to replace lost steel-making capacity in blast furnaces, which heat iron ore, coke and limestone to produce steel.
The company estimates that when it’s completed the furnace will be able to create 1.6 million tons of steel per year. Residential furnaces typically have a lifespan between 15 and 18 years. It’s unclear how long this kind of massive commercial unit will last, but presumably a lot longer than that.
No timetable has been set for when the project might resume, and approximately 1,600 employees could be laid off in the coming weeks from their Fairfield Works mill in the meantime. U.S. Steel reported losses of $173 million, which was much more than many anticipated.
For now the company, employees, and local community members are left to wait out the market and hope for better days as soon as possible.