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Algoma Steel touts transition to electric arc steelmaking during open house

Feb. 28 information session also served as public consultation for steelmaker's proposed changes to site-specific standards
Algoma Steel open house (March 2022)
Community members packed into the Northern Community Centre Monday night for an environmental open house hosted by Algoma Steel Inc. regarding its multi-million dollar transition into electric arc steelmaking. (SooToday photo)

Algoma Steel Inc. hosted an environmental open house Feb. 28, bringing a large turnout to the Northern Community Centre on Goulais Avenue to learn more about its $700-million investment in its transition to electric arc steelmaking. 

The transformation - the installation of two electric arc furnaces is expected to eliminate its coke-making processes entirely by 2029 - is expected to reduce emissions by approximately 70 per cent.  

“We know that this project is very new and very exciting for the community, and it touches all of us,” said Brenda Stenta, manager of corporate communications for Algoma Steel, speaking with reporters. “So we did expect to get a fairly good turnout this evening, and it’s awesome to see.” 

The open house - which provided community members with opportunities for feedback via written and email submissions - also served as the public consultation required by Algoma Steel for its own application process. 

The steelmaker is applying for an amendment to its site-specific standards for benzo(a)pyrene, benzene and particulate matter.

Last year, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks requested changes to the air emissions model. Although Algoma’s emissions didn’t change, the method of modelling emissions did. 

Algoma Steel is also applying for a new site-specific standard for sulphur dioxide, as it doesn’t expect to meet the new standards for sulphur dioxide when they come into effect in July 2023.  

“We’re in compliance now with the standard, but when they introduce the new levels, we won’t be able to meet those new levels until the EAF [electric arc furnace] is actually in full operation,” said Stenta. “So we’ll require site-specific standards to bridge that window of time until we decommission the coke-making batteries and the number seven blast furnace.”

Cathy Klages, who came to the open house with family members, told SooToday that she’s encouraged by the steelmaker’s forthcoming transformation to electric arc furnace steelmaking. 

“That’s excellent, because the emissions and the production out of Algoma Steel have been a concern, especially in my family, when we’ve had some cancer related to environmental type of cancers,” said Klages. “You can’t pinpoint them, you never can do that - but I think it’s important to keep on top of it, to let them know that the public is keen for this project, but it has to be done right.”

Water Tower Inn owner JJ Hilsinger says the project will usher in a “new era for the city of Sault Ste. Marie to stand up and continue to grow greener.”

“It’ll be like living on a new planet. I think it’s been a long time. A lot of people wished that this phenomenal transition of the plant would happen,” he said. 

“We know that the market is going in this direction - our customers are already today looking for low-carbon steel products. That’s where the demand is going, and we’re going there,” said Stenta.

“And when we pair our electric arc furnaces with the low-carbon power supply that’s available in Ontario, it’ll make us one of the leading producers of green steel in North America.”

The information on the steelmaker’s shift to electric arc furnaces displayed at Monday’s open house can be viewed at the Algoma Steel website.