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Upgrades to Algoma Steel’s plate mill finally complete

Steelmaker’s plate mill upgrades project promises to pump out more, higher quality product

It was a long time coming, but the historic upgrades to Algoma Steel’s plate mill are finally complete.

A development that was initially announced in 2018, the Plate Mill Modernization Project will ultimately boost Algoma Steel’s annual shipped plate capacity from 450,000 tons to 650,000 tons.

The project was overseen by Danieli Group, an Italy-based supplier and contractor that designed and delivered Algoma's flagship direct strip production complex in the mid-1990s.

Courtesy of Algoma Steel

Recent upgrades will allow Algoma to expand its product portfolio to include wider plate products, to better control shape and surface quality and to improve logistics — making it possible to offer enhanced ship-on-time performance.

“When we say it’s going to be delivered at a certain time, our plate customers have more faith in that because our delivery performance is part of this project,” Algoma Steel CEO Michael Garcia told SooToday on June 18. “This strengthens Algoma’s name as our delivery performance has dramatically increased.”

The modernization also included an overhaul of the complete plant automation system — from the reheat process to finished goods — and the installation of a new primary de-scaler, a new hot-leveller and a new cooling bed.

Courtesy of Algoma Steel

A new dividing shear, piling system, 'top-to-bottom" automated inspection system and plate-marking machine have also upgraded the finishing area.

It was inside the finishing area where dozens of employees were joined by dignitaries and top officials with the steelmaker to celebrate the occasion on June 18 with a ceremony, followed by tours of the facility.

SooToday was offered to join the tour but denied permission to take photographs inside the mill.  

Initially scheduled for completion by fall 2022, the plate modernization project encountered delays as the $120-million upgrade was plagued with technical problems and automation issues.

Then, in November 2022, SooToday reported that the project’s price tag had climbed to $135 million because of the setback, on top of an estimated $65-million drag on Algoma's bottom line.

Courtesy of Algoma Steel

Danieli Group, which worked on huge technical makeovers at Algoma Steel, paid a $5-million settlement related to problems with its Sault plate mill upgrade last year.

Garcia admitted to SooToday that was a challenging time.

“It was very stressful because we were letting our customers down,” he said. “Our employees were working tirelessly to get through those challenges that we were facing during the summer of 2022.”

“But what I’m most thankful for and impressed by is the way this organization responded and learned from all of those challenges,” he continued. “This is an acknowledgement of all the hard work by the entire team over multiple years.”

Courtesy of Algoma Steel

Algoma Steel's plate mill is the only Canadian facility making discrete plate steel.

The product is used to make Royal Canadian Navy warships (HMCS Toronto and HMCS Halifax) as well as bridges (Champlain Bridge, Bluewater Bridge), buildings (Pearson International Airport, Rogers Centre, GFL Memorial Gardens) and wind turbines across Ontario.

 SooToday, with files from David Helwig