Longwy was shaped by the steel industry more radically than any other city in Europe.
Now its last production site of this era is disappearing.
Until the early 1960s, Hauts Fourneaux et Forges de Saulnes et Gorcy was a pure pig iron producer with two production sites in Saulnes and in Hussigny-Godbrange, 5 km away.
The company operated 4 blast furnaces and 3 electric arc furnaces for the production of ferrous alloys.
Due to growing overcapacities on the European pig iron market, the management decided at that time to build a fully continuous wire rod mill in neighbouring Herserange to process part of its iron production there.
In the lack of their own facilities, steel production was to take place in the Thomas steelworks of Lorraine-Escaut in Senelle, 4 km south.
For this purpose, a blast furnace was converted in Saulnes to produce Thomas pig iron and a liquid transport system was set up. The blast furnaces in Hussigny were shut down in 1964.
The steel produced in Senelle from the Saulnes iron was rolled into billets and then finished in Herserange. In return, Lorraine-Escaut was allowed to use half the capacity (30.000 t/m) of the new rolling mill itself.
In June 1964, the first billet was rolled into wire rod in the new plant.
The rolling mill had 7 roughing, 10 intermediate and 16 finishing stands.
In 1966, Usinor took over Soc. des Forges de Saulnes et Gorcy and merged it with its ironworks in Uckange to form Hauts Fourneaux Réunis de Saulnes et Uckange.
Since Lorraine-Escaut was also taken over by Usinor in the same year, the new wire mill could now be attached to the plant in Senelle.
The Saulnes blast furnaces were shut down for good in 1968 and iron production was shifted to Uckange. Only one electric furnace was still in operation until 1991.
The wire mill was taken over in 1984 by Unimetal, now the long products division of Usinor-Sacilor, and shut down in December 1998. Aerial.
The invention of the continuous hot strip mill in the USA in the 1920s (at Armco, Ashland) was one of the key innovations in the steel industry. Similar to the introduction of the Bessemer or Mannesmann processes, it not only brought cost advantages for steel producers but also opened up completely new markets. Nevertheless, this technology still is not known to most people.
With the traditional, non-continuous, processes for sheet metal production, mass motorization of the population in the industrialized countries would never have been possible.
Whereas in the US in 1940 there were already 28 wide strip mills in operation, in Europe there were only 4, all of which were built with American help, except for the plant in Dinslaken, Germany.
The great era of hot strip mills in Europe only started after the war and especially in the 1960s with the motorization of the working class.
A technology transfer promoted by the US government began because European rolling mill engineers did not have the necessary know-how to build these huge, complex plants on their own. Until the late 1960s they therefore usually cooperated with American companies such as United, Mesta or Blaw Knox.
The new rolling mills changed the appearance of the iron and steel works forever. The August-Thyssen-Hütte, one of the largest steel mills in Europe, produced 1.55 million tons of crude steel in 1955. A modern hot strip mill consumes up to 5.5 million tons of steel per year. Larger blast furnaces, more efficient steelworks and new types of continuous casting plants had to be installed to satisfy the steel hunger of the new hot strip mills. This led to the consolidation of both steel production sites and their operating companies.
Apart from their economic and social importance, hot strip mills are simply evidence of brilliant engineering and are also very photogenic.
I would therefore like to present in a small series some of the important hot strip mills in Europe.
Further reading: Ribbon of Fire – How Europe adopted and developed US strip mill technology (1920-2000) edited by J Aylen & Ruggaro Ranieri Published by Pendragon ISBN 978-8865982389
It was in Denain that the new company Usinor, resulting from the merger of the Société des forges et aciéries du Nord et de l’Est and the Société de Denain-Anzin, decided to install a continuous wide-strip rolling mill, the first in France and postwar Europe, commissioned in 1951.
The 66” (1,676 mm) fully continuous mill had 4 roughing and 6 finishing stands. It was built by United Engineering from Pittsburgh, Pa. .
The electrical equipment came from the Westinghouse company.
The subsequent 3-stand cold rolling mill was installed 140 km away in Montataire near a Renault assembly plant.
Soon Usinor’s steel capacity became a bottleneck so in 1955 a new blast furnace (No.5) had to be built.
In 1978 Denain underwent a restructuring plan which led to the phasing out of its steel production. In July 1980, the last blast furnace was shut down. The hot strip mill continued to operate until March 1985. Afterwards only the Ateliers de Denain, specialising in the repair of wagons remained on the site.
The workforce at the Denain mills fell from 10,000 employees in 1966 to 6,300 in 1979, and then to less than 200 when the Denain plant was finally closed in 1988.
Cockerill’s construction of a new melt shop in Réhon, France in 1978 was the last major investment into the dying steel basin of Longwy.
The two O.B.M. converters (Oxygen Bodenblasen Maxhütte) were installed in the relocated halls of the former Thomas steelworks in Ougree, Belgium, closed down in 1975.
Between June and October 1979 Cockerill now operated a real converter zoo in Réhon.
Two new 80 t O.B.M converters.
Two old 26 t former Thomas converters which were converted to O.B.M. in 1973.
Three 23 t Thomas converters from 1953
and a 36 t O.L.P. (Oxygen Lance Poudre) converter from 1963.
There was also an electric steel plant.
Since the LD process, which was successfully used worldwide, could not be applied due to the high-phosphor domestic ores, numerous new steel production processes were introduced in Lorraine.
None of them was very sustainable.
The Thomas converters were shut down in October 1979, the old O.B.M. converters and the O.L.P. steelworks one year later.
On 30.7.1987, after only 8 years of operation, the new O.B.M. steel plant, now owned by USINOR, was shut down too. In 1980 a third converter had been added.
Already about a year old but still highly recommended: “L’industrie du fer dans le bassin de Longwy des origines à nos jours” 588 pages crammed with information (in French) and hundreds of photos about Longwy’s legendary steel mills (Longwy, Senelle, La Chiers and Rehon).
60,00 EUR. ISBN/GTIN978-2-916782-62-1, Edition Fensch Vallee.