Fair weather ahead for Scotland’s come-back steel plants
The comeback story of Liberty Steel’s Scottish plants at Dalzell and Clydebridge turned another page this week with a decision to restart production of heavy-duty products used in structures such as bridges and public art sculptures.
Known as ‘weathering’ steel, the environmentally tough grade of plate steel had been made at the iconic Lanarkshire steelworks in the past and management at the metals and industrials group Liberty House, which bought the mothballed plants last year, is eager to reinstate production when the opportunity arose.
The reintroduction of weathering steel in the coming weeks means that, not only will the Dalzell rolling mill, which reopened in September 2016, be busier than before, but there will be increasing use of the neighbouring Clydebridge works at Cambuslang, which provides the extra processing needed to enable this kind of steel to withstand exposure to the elements long term.
Drew McGhie, managing director of Liberty Steel Dalzell, said: “By expanding the number of grades we make, we can ensure a brighter future for the workforce. We’ve started making use of the Clydebridge equipment over recent months but the addition of weathering steel to our range means we will now be using that plant more regularly.”
He said there were great market opportunities for weathering steel because there is currently very limited production of this type of steel in the UK and almost all needs to be imported from continental Europe.
Mr McGhie added that workers from Dalzell will operate at Clydebridge for an interim period until demand reaches a level that will sustain a resident workforce in Clydebridge.
Dalzell, which currently employs 120 staff is the last remaining large plate mill in the UK and makes steel that’s used in areas such as construction, ship building, pipelines, cranes and heavy vehicle manufacture.
The plant forms part of Liberty’s ‘Greensteel’ vision as it uses renewable energy in the form of biodiesel to power its rolling mill and other equipment. The site currently has 18 megawatts of installed bio-diesel electricity generating capacity.
The twin sites in Lanarkshire are likely to add further to their range in the foreseeable future. Following its acquisition of the former Tata pipe mills at Hartlepool last week, Liberty disclosed that it intends to start making API grade plate steel at its Scottish sites that can be rolled at Hartlepool into the highest specification oil and gas pipelines.