Officials at AK Steel say repairs are under way at the Amanda blast furnace following a breakout “incident” that resulted in an unplanned shutdown at the steel-manufacturing plant.
“On February 22, 2014, AK Steel experienced an incident at the Company’s blast furnace in Ashland, Kentucky that has temporarily resulted in an unplanned outage of that furnace,” according to a statement released by AK Steel’s Mike Wallner at the West Chester, Ohio, facility. “There were no injuries in connection with this incident.”
In the release, Wallner said the company is looking into what exactly happened.
“The Company continues to assess the situation and investigate the root cause of the incident. In the meantime, the Company has begun repairs to bring the furnace back into production as soon as possible. Prior to the completion of those repairs, the Company will utilize its Middletown Works blast furnace and its Butler Works electric arc furnace, as well as purchase merchant carbon slabs, to service its customers.”
A longtime AK Steel employee, who is now retired, said his understanding is the crew on duty at the time of the incident did an outstanding job in response to the breakout — which happens when molten contents of the furnace breach the outer wall.
The problem seems to have been related to the hearth, or bottom, of the furnace and will be difficult to repair, he said.
The retired steelworker said plant officials will probably get the furnace back in operation to take it through a planned shutdown for further repairs.
At the time it was completed in 1963, the Amanda furnace was considered “the largest blast furnace in the free world,” the retired steel worker said, and was one of 67 blast furnaces in the immediate area at that time, including a unit on Sixth Street, which was the largest of its kind in the United States.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.