US steel manufacturer Big River Steel is currently building an ultra-modern steel mill in the state of Arkansas which will specialize in the production of sophisticated flat-rolled products. From 2017 onwards the mill will take annual delivery of up to 240,000 tonnes of hot-briquetted iron (HBI) from voestalpine in Corpus Christi. Over the past few months voestalpine has signed long-term supply contracts for high-quality HBI with several customers. In total, 60 percent of the planned production volume will be supplied to third parties, primarily steelmaking companies within the NAFTA zone. The remaining 40 percent, amounting to around 800,000 tonnes annually, will be shipped to the Austrian voestalpine sites at Linz and Donawitz for processing. “The new order not only underscores the growing market position of the voestalpine Group inside the NAFTA zone, it also secures full capacity utilization of the direct reduction plant, even before it is put into operation,” says Wolfgang Eder, Chairman of the Management Board of voestalpine AG. The growing trend toward high-quality steel production in the United States demands additional volumes of iron-ore-based prematerials such as HBI.
The HBI plant is currently in the final construction phase and, once built, will be the largest and most modern of its kind in the world. The plant run-up phase is scheduled for the coming summer months. Final assembly of the electrical, electronic, piping, and conveying systems is currently underway. The sea port at the plant has already been completed, with an initial 100,000 tonnes of iron ore pellets from Brazil being offloaded from the first freighter at the end of April. The plant’s advantageous location on the Gulf of Mexico is also important in this new business relationship: the new Big River Steel mill is located directly on the Mississippi. This excellent waterway connection ensures that delivery of the HBI is highly efficient and cost-effective, and eliminates the need for any reloading en route.