Why are UK sections produced via the primary (BF-BOF) production route?

Why are UK sections produced via the primary (BF-BOF) production route?

Hot-rolled steel sections can be produced by either the primary BF-BOF or the secondary EAF production routes. The quality and strength of the finished product (to the same product standard) is the same irrespective of the production route.

The main reasons that the UK mainly uses the BF-BOF steel production route are historical, geographical and political. The current production split of steelmaking in the UK is 80:20 (BF-BOF:EAF). Globally, the split is 70:30.

Early steel production in the UK was located in areas with local availability of the primary raw materials iron ore and coal. However, over time, it was the proximity to deep-water ports, to enable the import of higher quality iron ore and coal/coke, that was key to the development and consolidation of primary steelmaking in the large steelworks in South Wales, Scunthorpe, Teesside and Scotland. The proximity of some steelworks to other heavy industries, such as ship-building, was also important.

The capacity of the UK’s BF-BOF steel mills, largely developed in the 1960s and 70s, greatly exceeded the declining domestic demand; which fell from a peak of 28 mt in the 1970s to just 7mt pa today. This decline has hindered the ability of UK steel producers to invest in new EAF steel mills. A contributory factor has been the high industrial electricity prices in the UK which are more than 50% above other major EU economies.

Hot-rolled steel sections can be produced via either the primary BF-BOF or the secondary EAF production routes. The quality and strength of the finished product (to the same product standard) is the same irrespective of the production route.

The main reasons that the UK mainly uses the BF-BOF steel production route are historical, geographical and political. The current production split of steelmaking in the UK is 80:20 (BF-BOF:EAF). Globally, the split is 70:30.

The UK led the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and steel played a vital role in this. In 1875, for example, the UK accounted for nearly half of the global production of pig iron. Today the UK accounts for just 0.4% of total global steel production.

Early steel production in the UK was located in areas with local availability of the primary raw materials iron ore and coal. However, over time, it was the proximity to deep-water ports, to enable the import of higher quality iron ore and coal/coke, that was key to the development and consolidation of primary steelmaking in the large steelworks in South Wales, Scunthorpe, Teesside and Scotland. The proximity of some steelworks to other heavy industries, such as ship-building on the Clyde, was also important.
The capacity of the UK’s BF-BOF steel mills, largely developed in the 1960s and 70s, greatly exceeded the declining domestic demand; which fell from a peak of 28 mt in the 1970s to just 7mt pa today. This decline has hindered the ability to invest in new EAF steel mills and, to a large extent, also prevented major investment in upgrading the existing BF-BOF steelworks.

A contributory factor to the lack of investment in EAF steelmaking, has been the high industrial electricity prices in the UK which are more than 50% above other major EU economies, see Fig. 7.