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1992 FIN – U.S. Steel, Along With Kobe, Plans to Return to Wire Rod Producing

January 24
00:00 2010

FASTENER HISTORY
1992 FIN – U.S. Steel, Along With Kobe, Plans to Return to Wire Rod Producing

By Dick Callahan

March 30, 1992 FIN – U.S. Steel which departed from the steel wire rod business in 1986 with the sale of its Joliet Works to American Steel & Wire Corp., plans a comeback in rod making, including cold heading quality rods.

USS/Kobe Steel Co., a joint venture between U.S. Steel and Kobe Steel of Japan has announced plans to produce wire rod as small as 5mm in diameter by upgrading the 10-inch bar mill at U.S. Steel’s Lorain, Ohio Works.
The upgrade, to begin in April and scheduled to be completed b the fourth quarter of 1993, will allow USS/Kobe to produce sizes from 5mm to 27mm.

Included in the $75 million modernization (which will allow rolling speeds to 120 meters/second) will be a walking beam furnace; a No-Twist mill; a post sizing block; interstand cooling; a Stelmor cooling facility; and a coil conveyor with compact banders and handling facilities.
The contractor for the project has not been identified but it will almost certainly be Morgan Construction Co. of Worchester, Massachusetts.

Although it would appear that the USS/Kobe rod mill will be competing for business now enjoyed by existing North American rod mills, that’s only partially true. There are, for instance, the Japanese auto plants which, as far as we know, do not use any rod from any domestic mills.
The business they now do with Japanese companies will not be a little handier (and will help muffle some complaints about lack of domestic content in the Japanese cars made here).
There’s also the tire cord market, which, with the exception of Bekaert, is almost entirely in Japanese hands and will be more so in the future.

Another market is the cold heading business which will increasingly target the Japanese auto transplants as U.S. fastener companies increasingly tie in with Japanese fastener companies which have access to that market.

Supplying the rod mill with billet shouldn’t be any problem for USS/Kobe Steel. The $80 million upgrading of the blast furnace – BOF complex at Lorain will provide Lorain with about 2.4 million tons of annual steelmaking capacity, more than sufficient, we believe, to supply the needs of USS/Kobe Steel’s bar, tube and rod groups as well as continuing to supply American Steel & Wire Corp. (ASW) with billets.

The ASW rod mill at Cuyahoga (which incidentally was modernized with some technical help from Kobe) serves mostly, as it did under U.S. Steel, the cold heading quality and high carbon rod markets with some lesser business in the welding and wool wire markets.

Old timers among FIN’s readers will remember those days when U.S. Steel with about 3.1 million tons of annual capacity was kingpin in the wire rod field.
That output came from rod mills at the Fairless Works in Fairless Hills, PA; the South Works in South Chicago, Illinois; the Joliet Works in Joliet, Illinois, the Pittsburg Works in Pittsburg, California; and the Cuyahoga Works in Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Ohio.

Most of this capacity was shut down by 1984 except the Joliet rod mill which was turning out about 250,000 tons per year (about the same capacity as the proposed rod mill output at Lorain).
The Fairless Works rod mill equipment is still turning out rod (in China); ditto the South Works mill (now in Columbia).
In 1986 American Steel & Wire purchased the Joliet Works (and the closed down Cuyahoga Works) taking U.S. Steel completely out of the wire rod business…for a while. ©1992/2010 Fastener Industry News

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