European Wide Strip Mills

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 ERibbon of fireurope adopted and developed US strip mill technology (1920-2000) edited by J Aylen & Ruggaro Ranieri Published by Pendragon ISBN 978-8865982389




USINOR, Denain.Usinor Denain

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.

Usinor Denain Hot strip Mill

Finishing stands

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.

Roughing stand

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.

Réhon’s Converter Zoo

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.
Consisting of:
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.

Real Heavy Plate

up to 900mm thick and 80 tons heavy is still produced at the old Marrel Frères site in Chateauneuf, France.

The steel mill  was founded in 1867 by the Marrel brothers.
Main product were flat irons and armoured plates.
In 1932 a unique combined heavy plate rolling and forging mill was installed that is still in use today.
In 1974 Marrel Frères became part of the Creusot Loire group and eight years later the production of long rolled products was transfered to St. Etienne and after the bancruptcy of Creusot Loire the mill became part of USINOR.
In the following years the company changed it’s name frequently (Creusot Loire Industrie, CLI Fafer, Usinor Industeel). Today the site is part of Industeel producing the largest heavy plate in Europe.

L’Usine De Thionville

Though much of Lorraine’s steel industry has vanished the old Carlshütte in Thionville is still around. At least parts of it. Like the electric arc furnace in the old open hearth shop now owned by Akers from Sweden.
Further viewing at stahlseite.

The mill in Thionville (German: Diedenhofen) on the banks of the river Moselle was founded by Carl Röchling from Völklingen, Germany and named “Carlshütte” in 1898. Lorraine was part of Germany from 1871 to 1918. Two blast furnaces were built and two more plus a Bessemer steel mill were added in 1906.
After the first world war the mill became French and was now called “Société Lorraine Minière et Métallurgique”.
A coking plant came into operation in 1928.
The “Aciéries de Longwy” took over the plant in 1933.
A forge, an open hearth melt shop and a foundry were added.
1953 saw a new owner: “Société Lorraine – Escaut“.
In 1964 blast furnace number 1 was replaced by a new furnace the largest in Lorraine capable of producing 2000 tons of pig iron a day. Furnaces No. 2,3 and 4 were closed down in between 1966 and 1970 and were all dismantled by 1972.
USINOR a large steel company from northern France took over the Thionville mill in 1966.
A new UHP 70 ton electric arc furnace replaced the old open hearth furnaces in 1973.

Plans to built a OBM oxygen steel making shop on ground were halted in the 1970ies and in 1977 the blast furnace, the Bessemer shop and all rolling mills were closed down for good.
In 1980 a new continuous caster was installed to supply feedstock for USINOR’s
wire rolling mill in Longwy.
In 1983 the steel foundry was closed down.
In 1985 the mill was split up into USINOR Acierie de Thionville and USINOR Forge de Thionville.
USINOR and SACILOR, the two largest steel groups in France were fusioned in 1986, now government owned.
The steel mill became part of Unimetal (the long product subsidiary of USINOR) while the forge became part of the USINOR/Cockerill owned rolling mill manufacturer Forcast.
The continuous caster was closed in 1994 and the steel mill was now taken over by Forcast.
Forcast was sold to the Swedish roller manufacturer Akers in 2001.
Akers still runs the 70 ton electric arc furnace, ingot casting and the 4000 ton forging press to produce ingots and forged rolls mostly for the steel industry.



In the 1960ies the small town of Longwy, France (pop. 60000) still housed more than 20 blast furnaces. A unique density.
The mills were running on local iron ores of a rather poor quality that became uneconomical in the 1970ies with high quality iron ore shipped into Europe from overseas.
35 years ago, after the announcment of La Chiers’ closure, Longwy’s steel workers started their long and exceptional violent struggle to keep their jobs.
Since the closure of Arcelor’s wire rolling mill in 1998 there is no more steel industry in town.
Jean-Marie Ottelé site: is a unique source of information about the Terre Rouge (Red Earth) steel industry.

Longwy Map

1: Cockerill-Ougrée-Providence
Founded: 1865.
Closed: 1987
2: Lorraine-Escaut

Founded 1835

Closed 1987
3: Hauts Fourneaux De La Chiers

Founded:  1881

Closed: 1979
Aciéries de Longwy
Founded: 1880

Closed:  1978
5: Hauts-Fourneaux Réunis de Saulnes et
Founded: 1872

Closed: 1991

Hauts Fourneaux De La Chiers

Hauts Fourneaux De La Chiers, 1950ies