June 18, 2024

Steel Market Summary - Australia

Port Kembla Plate Mill Upgrade Approved 

The NSW Government has given planning approval for a major refurbishment of BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla plate mill. The $300 million project will involve replacing two of the existing furnaces with a newer and more energy-efficient alternative, upgrading infrastructure, and modernising processing plant equipment. This will result in an increase in production capacity from the current 430,000 metric tonnes per year to 600,000 metric tonnes. Work is expected to start in July 2024 and take three years to complete. BlueScope´s chief executive of Australian Steel Products, Tania Archibald, said: “The modernisation of the plate mill is an important step in bolstering Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capability, supporting critical industries like renewable energy, defence and major infrastructure”. The project includes measures to reduce the environmental impact from the mill´s operations, including a large reduction in its fuel consumption. It will also create 95 full-time construction jobs during peak construction periods and an additional 18 operational jobs. The approval was granted under the NSW Government´s State Significant Development process where projects deemed of special value to the state can have their


applications fast-tracked. The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces and Member for Wollongong, Paul Scully, said: “Port Kembla Steelworks is an important part of Wollongong with a history of steelmaking of nearly 100 years. This major project represents the most comprehensive upgrade of the plate mill since it was built in 1963. The new furnace represents the best available technology which will keep steel plate production local and continue to provide enormous economic benefit to the Illawarra for the future”. Additionally, Tania Archibald said the upgrade would help the state work towards its target of net zero by 2050.

Approval for the plate mill refurbishment follows two earlier announcements of significance to BlueScope Steel and the Illawarra region which, when combined, bring the total commitments of economic stimulus to the area to $650 million. In February of this year, the Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, announced a $136.8 million grant towards BlueScope’s $1 billion rebuild of its No. 6 blast furnace. Critics at the time wondered how bringing a blast furnace back into operation – presumably for a lifespan of 20 years – could fit in with the company´s green steel ambitions. BlueScope´s CEO, Mark Vassella, responded by saying there was no other viable technology on the market which could maintain the plant’s output after 2026, when the No. 5 blast furnace reaches the end of its life. Meanwhile, in May of last year, the NSW Government granted planning approval for a $182 million upgrade of three berths at the port of Port Kembla. The berth upgrades are critical to enabling BlueScope Steel to handle coal sourced from Queensland after 2028. According to Tania Archibald: “BlueScope operates five berths at Port Kembla to import a range of raw materials such as iron ore, coal, limestone and recycled steel scrap. The export of steel products to customers, and the continued supply of these raw materials is critical to the operations of the steelworks”.

Minister Scully said: “Our construction industry is the largest user of Port Kembla’s steel, using more than 70% of the site’s total output. Combined with the reline of the No. 6 blast furnace and the approved jetty upgrades, these investments signal a strong future for steelmaking in the Illawarra”.

Finally, frequent readers of Australian Steel News will be aware of its companion platform, the website AustralianSteel.com. Indeed, as you read this part of the Steel Market Summary – Australia, you are already on the website. A glance at the menu toolbar at the top of this page shows two topics worthy of attention. Prices, and Special Features. In the Prices section you´ll find the monthly price over the past two years for all the key steel products and metals which are featured in the price graphs in Australian Steel News. So, instead of just four months of price history in ASN, you can see two years of history here on the website. Additionally, the Special Features section is a type of business directory of providers in the steel and related industries. For example, if you need some stainless steel, our Special Product Feature on stainless steel lists various providers. Likewise, the recently-published special feature on New Zealand is a gateway into that country´s steel industry.