The Anonymous Widower

The Death Of Traditional Steel Making

If we’re being serious about making steel using the traditional methods of blast furnaces, converters and lots of energy, it’s not a very green process and it contributes to pollution and global warning.

We have a serious oversupply of steel in the world and this page lists production by countries.

In 2014, the world produced 1670 million tonnes of steel, of which we produced just twelve.

Looking at the production levels, there are quite a few countries that produce produce small numbers of million tonnes of steel like we do.

As China produced 822 million tonnes of steel in 2014, how many of these countries will be forced out of steel making in the next few years?

What will save steel making in a lot of countries is improvements in technology.

The parts of the steel industry, that seem to be the most profitable are the downstream uses of the metal, like making rails for railways. In this country, we have a reputation for using steel in innovative ways, but few of these uses need steel made in Britain, although they may need a quality steel to start with.

But that quality steel can come from anywhere with the knowledge to produce it.

China will acquire that knowledge, just as the Japanese did in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is interesting to look at iron ore by country in 2014. Out of a world product total of 3.22 million tonnes, we see.

  • China – 1.5 million
  • Australia – 0.66 million
  • Brazil – 0.32 million
  • India – 0.15 million
  • Russia – 0.1 million

So does this partly explain China’s massive production of steel?

I think Australia and Brazil are the two most important countries on this list. Both have large amounts of energy and because they are ambitious intelligent countries, as the steel-making technology develops, will we see them increasingly becoming makers of quality steel?

I don’t know, but it says to me, that even producing quality steel in a niche market won’t be profitable for long.

The money and employment is in using quality steel, not in making it.

It may be a hard unpopular view, but we should let the rest of the world fight over supplying us with quality steel. If we want security of supply, I’m sure the Aussies would provide it.

As to the steel-making areas like Teesside and South Wales, we have to move on.

The Future On Teesside

In fact Teesside seems to be doing that, if a BBC report this week wasn’t truly negative.

What puzzles me about Teesside, is that there is little mention in the media about York Potash. This is from Wikipedia.

The project intends to mine the world’s largest deposit of polyhalite – a naturally occurring mineral – located on the Yorkshire coast.

The mine site is located outside the village of Sneatonthorpe, between Whitby and Scarborough in North Yorkshire. The project plans to construct two 1,500 m (4,900 ft) shafts to reach the mineral seam which includes a mineable area of around 25,200 hectares (62,000 acres).

To minimise the amount of visible infrastructure within the North York Moors National Park, a protected area, the polyhalite will then be transported 37 kilometres (23.0 miles) in an underground tunnel to the company’s processing plant at Teesside. After granulation and drying, the finished product – marketed by Sirius Minerals as POLY4 – will be exported from the nearby harbour facilities.

Could it be that, this project appears to not be very green and in the minds of many is creating a giant hole in the North York Moors National Park?

My view is that the UK needs more big projects like York Potash, that earn billions of pounds from exports, create thousands of jobs and don’t despoil the environment.

The Future In South Wales

So what have we got for South Wales and Port Talbot in particular?

Nothing as big as York Potash, but there are plans for the world’s first tidal lagoon power station in Swansea Bay Wikipedia says this about the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay.

It is planned to be the first of six tidal lagoon power plants to be constructed in the United Kingdom, and one of four planned to be built in Wales. The tidal lagoon would have a capacity of 320 MW.

The project was named as part of the UK government’s 2014 National Infrastructure Plan and was granted planning permission by theDepartment for Energy and Climate Change in June 2015. Power production is expected to begin in 2019. The operational life time of the artificial lagoon is 120 years, effects of global warming have been included in the planning. It is also to be constructed to withstand 500-year-storms and to function as a coastline protection against storms and floods.

So what are we waiting for?

The economics depend very much on the strike price for electricity generated and the Government seems reluctant to set one. I do wonder if they have got themselves tied in knots with trying to build a white elephant at Hinckley Point, that they can’t think of anything else.

Consider.

  • I’m not against nuclear power, but Hinckley Point C is so expensive and its strike price is so high, that it will be a millstone around the necks of energy users for decades.
  • If we want to go nuclear, there are smaller and proven reactor systems available.
  • Electricity generation is going more distributed with the growth of solar panels, local heat and power systems and other technology.
  • Large energy users are changing technology to cut use.
  • The tidal lagoon technology gives protection against storms and floods.
  • Tidal lagoons could be the twenty-first century equivalent of the nineteenth-century seaside pier.
  • If the technology and economics of the tidal lagoon work, it will produce carbon-free electricity for at least 120 years.
  • There are other places, where tidal lagoons could be built.

You could bet your life on the Dutch building a tidal lagoon, but they don’t have the tides.

Rather than back a doomed steelworks, the Government should back the unique energy project of the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay.

If the energy economics don’t work out, you still get the coastal protection and leisure facilities.

A Metro For Teesside

The Tees Valley Metro has been in planning mode for some years and I can’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet.

All that seems to have happened is the opening in 2014 of James Cook University Hospital station, which I wrote about in James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt. The station certainly seems to be attracting a level of use, typical of a station of its type.

I also wrote about the metro in The Creation Of The Tees Valley Metro.

A Metro For South Wales

The Welsh are also keen to create a South Wales Metro for some time. I wrote about my observations on the trains in the area in The Welsh Could Be Having A Lot Of Fun Playing Trains In The Cardiff Valleys.

This project should be beaten into action as soon as possible.

It is interesting to take a look at a Google Map of the coast between Swansea and Port Talbot.

Swansea To Port Talbot

Swansea To Port Talbot

I don’t know the area well, but I know many people, who have enjoyed leisure time spent all along the South Wales Coast.

Perhaps, if the steelworks were to be closed, it could be treated to a Barcelona solution, where their steelworks was closed and the area turned into beaches and parks, which formed part of the Olympics in 1992.

The Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay would be generally sitting in the western part of the bay.

I believe that a comprehensive South Wales Metro, could go a long way to creating more jobs, than will be inevitably lost at Port Talbot.

Conclusions

Steel production is virtually dead in the UK and we must move on.

If we can find an innovative project to replace steel making, we should back it and as with York Potash, it doesn’t necessarily mean billions of public money.

But decent infrastructure and local rail, tram and bus systems can go a long way to creating the jobs needed everywhere.

In both the examples of Teesside and South Wales, surely if nothin else, a decent metro would give a boost to tourism.

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Is There No Mention Of York Potash In The Discussion Of Redcar Steelworks?

This detailed article on the BBC entitled What is the outlook for Britain’s steel industry? starts like this.

It is being billed as a top level crisis summit. Government ministers, unions and steel company bosses are heading to South Yorkshire to discuss what can be done to help an industry hit by tough global market conditions.

UK steelmakers say it’s getting harder to compete because of high energy costs, green taxes, the strong pound and cheap Chinese imports flooding the market. Compared to foreign competitors, steel unions warn the cost of making steel in the UK is too high.

The recent closure of SSI’s steelworks at Redcar in Teeside, with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs, has brought into sharp focus the difficulties facing the industry. The Thai firm said a slump in demand for steel was behind its decision.

At other steelworks across the country, from South Wales to Scunthorpe to Rotherham, union leaders says thousands of jobs are hanging in the balance. So what’s next for the UK’s steelworkers?

But with regard to Sirius Metals and the creation of one of the world’s largest potash mines and processing facility; York Potash, there is not a word.

I’m afraid that in a few years there will be little steel-making in Europe, let alone the UK, as other countries with lower costs will undercut Europe on price.

On this page of the York Potash web site, there is an impressive video about the mine and its processing facility.

This must be one of the hopes for the future for Teeside.

I can remember the development of the earlier potash mine at Boulby, when I worked at ICI around 1970. This section is the history of the Boulby mine, and it would appear to have a future. The potash is removed to Teesport, using a reopened section of the Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway, which used to connect Middlesbrough to Whitby, in addition to the still operating Esk Valley Line

In contrast the York Potash ,mine will use an underground conveyor to move potash from South of Whitby to its processing facility at Teesport.

There is still another railway in the area, which is the heritage North Yorkshire Railway, which connects Whitby and Pickering. According to this section in Wikipedia, it has ambitious plans to connect to the York to Scarborough Line, thus giving the possibility of steam services between Scarborough and Whitby.

I believe that the Tees Valley Metro can be developed.

Like many places in the UK, I believe that services on all the lines from Morpeth and Newcastle in the North to Middlesbrough, Darlington and Whitby in the South could be run using Aventra IPEMUs with a small amount of selected electrification.

Which brings me to the conclusion that Redcar steel works will be closed and Potash mining and a developed Tees Valley Metro will be better for the area, than pouring millions down the black hole of the steelworks.

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter To George Osborne About Teeside

I should say, I have no connection to Teeside, except that I quite like the area.

There is little that can be done about SSI Redcar, other than hope for a miracle, as there is so much steel being produced in the world, that the price will only get lower and the plant will get less and less economic.

I also live in Dalston, which since the arrival of the London Overground five years ago, has very much gone up in the world! And in some ways, like employment, gone up for those at all levels in society.

So I very much feel, that improving a railway and other forms of public transport, can only make an area more attractive for investment, employment, living and leisure.

Teeside has been lobbying for a Metro for years, to link the knit the area together.

There is only one way that this can be provided in the absolutely necesary short time-scale.

The railway line between Newton Aycliffe and Middlebrough should be electrified, as soon as possible. Immediately, this would enable.

  • The new trains being produced at Newton Aycliffe by Hitachi, to get to the East Coast Main Line under their own power.
  • Direct electric train services between Middlesbrough, Darlington and all points North and South from Edinburgh to London on the East Coast Main Line.

Northern Rail or their successor have been mandated in the new Invitation to Tender for the franchise to provide 120 new carriages to replace the disgusting Pacer trains.

Some of these new carriages should be the IPEMU variant of the new Aventra trains, being produced by Bombardier at Derby, which could by the use of the electrification at Middlesbrough and on the East Coast Main Line and the trains on-board batteries be able to run on the following routes.

  • Saltburn to Bishop Auckland via Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley Line
  • Hexham to Nunthorpe via the Tyne Valley Line, Newcastle, Sunderland, the Durham Coast Line, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.
  • Middlesbrough to Whitby could be done later.

The faster electric trains would increase capacity, decrease journey times and improve frequencies.

The only construction needed for the new trains, would be a small amount of platform lengthening and adjustments to the track and signalling.

 

 

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Creation Of The Tees Valley Metro

James Cook station is the first project that could be thought of as part of the proposal to create a Tees Valley Metro, which is described in Wikipedia like this.

The Tees Valley Metro is a project to upgrade the Tees Valley Line and sections of the Esk Valley Line and Durham Coast Line to provide a faster and more frequent service. In the initial phases the services will be heavy rail mostly along existing alignments. The later phase may introduce tram-trains to allow street running.

Tram-trains could be ideal for the line and perhaps if they ran past the Riverside stadium could be used to provide a stop there.

The proposed layout of the metro is powerful in that it links the East Coast Main Line at Darlington and the possibly soon-to-be-electrified Middlesbrough station to a number of both local heavy rail lines and a couple of heritage ones, opening up the area for all sorts of business, leisure and employment opportunities.

If Newton Aycliffe becomes a major train building centre as Hitachi hope, then surely that area could become an important destination on the Tees Valley Metro.

This Google Earth image shows the Tees Valley Line through Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough

Note Middlesbrough station at the west (left) and South Bank station at the east, at the top of the image.

The current Tees Valley Line threads its way between the two stations, on the north side of the main A66 road, passing close to the Riverside stadium.

The Esk Valley Line to James Cook, Nunthorpe and Whitby  branches off from this line between Middlesbrough station and the stadium and goes off in a generally south-easterly direction alongside the A172 road.

 

 

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 4 Comments