U.S. Steel Upgrades to Cut Costs and Benefit From the Alloy’s Rising Price

The move comes as President Trump vows to pass import restrictions to boost American production.

A smoking vat is removed after the molten steel has been poured out at U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson plant in Braddock, Pa.

Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek

U.S. Steel Corp., founded 116 years ago, is spending about $1.2 billion to upgrade several factories, including the Edgar Thomson plant in Braddock, Pa., and the Irvin plant in West Mifflin, Pa.

The improvements will increase the reliability of aging machinery and lower expenses, U.S. Steel says. Equipment fixes such as a new cooling tower installed at the Edgar Thomson plant will reduce energy costs. At the Irvin plant, replacing bearings and rolls used to mash slabs of steel into millimeter-thin sheets will add many years of life to the equipment. The changes come with steel prices near a three-year high and President Trump promising import restrictions to boost U.S. production.

Pouring molten steel and scrap into a cauldron at the Edgar Thomson plant.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
A U.S. Steel employee watches over production at Edgar Thomson.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
From left: Hot steel passes through the rolling—or metal-forming—mill at U.S. Steel’s Irvin plant in West Mifflin, Pa.; molten steel is poured into a cauldron after mixing at the Edgar Thomson plant. 
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
Steam and machinery surround the continuous caster at Edgar Thomson.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek

 

Steel runs through the continuous caster.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek

 

U.S. Steel employees watch over production at Edgar Thomson. In this stage, liquid steel is being formed into solid slabs.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
Scrap steel is piled up next to the rolling mill at the Irvin plant. The steel will occasionally warp, fold, or bend when it becomes caught up or an error occurs along the rolling mill. This steel is discarded here.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
A U.S. Steel employee walks near the rolling mill.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
Hot steel moves along the rolling mill.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
From left: A crane moves a slab of steel at the Irvin plant; work jackets hang in a window.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek
Sunlight streams through holes in the roof at the Irvin plant.
Photographer: Ross Mantle for Bloomberg Businessweek