Local Steel Experts Say US Steel's Decision To Drop $1.5 Billion Mon Valley Project Makes Sense

On Friday, U.S. Steel announced that it is abandoning its $1.5 billion project to upgrade its steelmaking in the Mon Valley. Local experts think this could be part of the company's pledge earlier this month to go carbon free by 2050; KDKA's Jon Delano reports.

Video Transcript

- And as US Steel abandons that billion dollar project, local experts are weighing in as well. Political editor Jon Delano continuing our team coverage now after hearing from those experts who think this could be part of the company's pledge earlier this month to go carbon free by 2050.

PROF. CHRIS PISTORIUS: It does produce a lot of CO2, though. To make one ton of steel, you produce almost two tons of CO2 in the process. Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of making steel in a blast furnace using Coke from coal. It's not the only way to make steel. US Steel recently bought Big River Steel in Arkansas that uses an electric arc furnace instead of a blast furnace.

RON ASHBURN: It is one of the nation's newest steel production plants.

JON DELANO: Environmentally, the electric arc furnace emits less pollution than the blast furnace.

RON ASHBURN: There is a 30-fold reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and a six-fold reduction in net energy consumed.

JON DELANO: Chris Pistorius with the Center for Iron and Steelmaking Research is not surprised the company dropped plans to upgrade its blast furnaces here.

PROF. CHRIS PISTORIUS: It is in line with the US Steel aim of going carbon neutral. That's quite an ambitious space by 2050, essentially being carbon neutral. That will require a big change.

JON DELANO: What does that mean for the Mon Valley? Ron Ashburn with the Association for Iron and Steel Technology says US Steel's announcement that it will shut down three [? cok ?] batteries in Clairton makes sense.

RON ASHBURN: In 1990, we had 57 blast furnaces operating in the United States. Today in 2021, there are 15.

JON DELANO: As for the Edgar Thompson works in Braddock, US Steel said it was, quote, committed to steel making in the Mon Valley for the next generation. Whether it remains a blast furnace or gets converted to an electric arc furnace, Ashburn says,

RON ASHBURN: I have a high amount of optimism that the Mon Valley Works can and will be an economic powerhouse.

JON DELANO: Steel supporters tell me that to keep the mills running, Congress should pass some version of President Biden's infrastructure plan. It will take a lot of steel to rebuild America's roads and bridges. Jon Delano, KDKA News.