In the mid-1980s, my old Ford Granada brought me to Liège, among other places, as the outcome of a short but intense groundhopper career.
Behind the infamous Hell Side of Standard Liege you could see the blast furnaces B and 5 of Cockerill-Sambre and I decided to take a closer look at them again, which unfortunately would take me more than 10 years.
With the construction of three new steelworks at the end of the 1950s, the Thomas steel making process (Basic-Bessemer) experienced its technical peak and a final blossoming.
Between May 1958 and August 1959, HADIR in Differdange, Phoenix Rheinrohr in Duisburg and Cockerill-Ougree in Liege commissioned a total of 13 converters with tapping weights between 50 and 70 tons.
All of them had been planned and built by DEMAG in Duisburg.
The Thomas steel plant in Liege-Ougree, with its futuristic façade at that time,
will remain the last new construction of its kind in the western world.
Five 56 t Thomas converters and two 1500 t hot metal mixers were put into operation on 4 August 1959 and were supplemented by a 60 t LD-AC converter in 1962.
In December 1975 the Thomas steel works in Liege were shut down.
5 years later the use of the basic bessemer process in the western hemisphere was finally terminated.
“Hot metal is supplied to Chertal from the six blast
furnaces of the Esperance-Longdoz plant at Seraing,
some 14 miles distant on the other side of Liege. In
order to provide transport on the lines of the Belgian
National Railway, it was necessary to design special
torpedo-type ladle cars. These cars can carry 165
tons of hot metal, but because of the heavy weight
of the refractories, the total car weight is about 330
tons. In order not to exceed the maximum permitted
railway load limit, it was necessary that the length
of the ladle cars be 31 meters. However, the mass of
hot metal is concentrated in the central part of the
torpedo ladle with the largest cross-section so as to
minimize the heat loss.” (1/1964, JOURNAL OF METALS)
The cars where manufactured by German DEMAG company.
Engineering Steel Belgium (ESB) in Seraing, Belgium announced that it will finally close down it’s steel making and casting facilities. Production is already down for two weeks.
The 70 ton electric arc furnace and the world’s largest round strand caster were built in 1972 by Cockerill to provide blooms for the Tubemeuse Pilger rolling mill across the river.
Tubemeuse was founded in 1911 under the name S.A. des Usines à Tubes de la Meuse. It was later taken over by Cockerill and went bancrupt in 1988. The mill carried on under the name New Tubemeuse until it filed bancruptcy again in 1993. The tube rolling facilities were closed down this time and the melt shop was sold to the Ellwood Steel company from Pennsylvania.
In 2009 the German GMH group bought the site.
Five days ago ArcelorMittal already announced the closure of it’s coking plant in Seraing within the next two weeks. The attempt to sell the site (built in 1957) to the U.S.-based Oxbow company had failed.
Today the ArcelorMittal steel company announced the closure of the majority of it’s remaining steel production sites in the Meuse valley near Liege, Belgium.
About 1300 of the remaining 2100 steel workers in the valley will loose their jobs.
Apart from the hot strip mill and the coking plant a cold rolling mill and two galvanisation lines will be closed for good.
The liquid phase steel production was already closed in October 2011.
The Meuse valley around Liege is one of the cradles of the European industrialisation.