£15m boost to steel city firm

Computer generated view of the new VIM furnace at Stocksbridge
Computer generated view of the new VIM furnace at Stocksbridge

Steel giant Tata has given the go-ahead for a £15 million investment that will boost high-tech steelmaking at its Stocksbridge plant and create a number of skilled jobs.

The news comes just under a year after the company announced it was considering installing a cutting edge Vacuum Induction Melting – or VIM – furnace at the plant.

The VIM route brings further improvements in cleanliness and performance when combined with other steel refining technologies.

Tata says the new furnace will enable it to tap into new market opportunities and develop innovative new products for the aerospace and oil and gas industries. Uses include making fail-safe, safety-critical applications such as aircraft engine components.

At present, Tata has to use other companies’ VIM facilities, which has limited its capacity to produce VIM steels.

Mark Broxholme, managing director of Tata’s South Yorkshire-based Speciality Steels business, said the investment showed customers they were ‘fully committed to the aerospace market for the long term’ adding:“This is also great news for the team here at Speciality Steels, which has put enormous effort into bringing this facility to South Yorkshire.”

Tata Steel chief commercial officer Henrik Adam said the addition of a VIM furnace was ‘an exciting prospect’ which enhanced the role the company could play, supplying customers who required highly specialised steels.

German metallurgical technology company SMS Mevac is set to build the VIM facility at Stocksbridge, starting early in 2015.

Speciality Steels VIM Project Manager Stephen Carey said work had been going on for a year on the design and layout of the furnace.

He added: “This preparatory work will greatly accelerate the programme to commissioning, meaning that customers will see products from the new furnace at the earliest opportunity.”

A limited number of jobs is expected to be created initially, but could rise if demand continues to increase.