Tata Steel to close Port Talbot coke ovens over ‘worsened’ condition

Article by Aniqah Majid

Tata Steel
The coke ovens will cease operations tomorrow

TATA STEEL’S beleaguered Port Talbot steelworks in Wales has suffered a further operational blow with the unexpected closure of its Morfa coke ovens.

Indian owners Tata Steel said that it was forced to make the decision due to the “worsened” condition of the ovens that made continued operation “untenable”. Fewer than 30 of the site’s 84 coke ovens are operational.

The ovens are used to heat coal to create coke which is then used to fuel blast furnaces.

Rajesh Nair, CEO of Tata Steel, said: “We have been clear in our current restructuring proposals that many of our heavy-end assets in Port Talbot are at their end-of-life capability.”

He added: “As part of our efforts to stem our current losses, and given the condition of the assets, we propose to close the heavy-end iron and steelmaking assets at Port Talbot within this calendar year in a phased manner.”

‘Years of betrayal’ for unions

Unite, which represents 1,500 Tata workers, said Tata had not indicated to trade unions that the coke ovens were set for imminent closure.

According to Unite, Tata Steel had told unions that it hoped to increase the capacity of the ovens soon.

The closure of the ovens follows Tata’s confirmation earlier this year that it plans to close two coal-powered blast furnaces at its Port Talbot site, risking 2,800 jobs.

Around 200 people work at the coke ovens. Tata Steel has confirmed that some workers will be needed for decommissioning works, but the future of these jobs, as with workers across the site, are part of the ongoing consultation between the company and trade unions on restructuring. 

Unite are currently balloting Tata workers for industrial action, with voting closing on 9 April.

The coke ovens will cease operations tomorrow. Tata said it will rely on importing coke from the open market to make up for the lack of production at the site.

Article by Aniqah Majid

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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