Learning in Action: Class Tours North Star BlueScope Steel

Dr. Tom Carr’s chemistry students recently enjoyed an outing to North Star BlueScope Steel in Delta, Ohio. Thank you to Dr. Carr for submitting the following write-up on the experience.

student tour 1On June 29, Dr. Tom Carr’s chemistry students completed a field-trip to North Star BlueScope Steel (NSBSS) in Delta, Ohio. As with similar outings, the guiding philosophy is that there is chemistry all around us and in places where one may not expect to find it. Accordingly, NSCC endeavors to show students chemistry as it is actually done.

North Star BlueScope is termed a “mini-mill.” This is in contrast to an “integrated mill” where iron ore and metallurgical coke are processed into steel via blast furnaces. Instead, a mini-mill like NSBSS uses electric arc furnaces to melt scrap steel. Afterwards, the molten steel is processed into coils.

At the heart of the company’s business are efficient processes to remove impurities from melted scrap (as slag) and add alloying agents to produce steel of desired quality. Here, the chemical determination of quantities of alloying agents added is critical. The quality of the steel so produced is evaluated on a scale of 0 to 4, with a ‘4’ steel being used for roadway culvert and a ‘0’ steel being used for propane cylinders.

Students were exposed to the sheer immensity of a steel mill. For instance, the ladles used are the size of small houses. The electrodes for the furnaces have thicknesses of tree trunks. Equipment of such dimensions enables NSBSS to produce 200 tons of steel every 40 minutes or so. This translates into annual production of about 2.4 million tons. The tour featured visits to sophisticated control rooms for major segments of mill operation: electric arc and ladle furnaces, continuous slab casting, rolling to controlled thicknesses and coiling.

The immensity of NSBSS operations also extends to career opportunities. The tour concluded over a pizza lunch, where four employees formed a panel to describe their work experiences. For instance, one woman mentioned how her prior work experience in a bakery served as a good background for formulations. In short, students became acquainted with the broad range of skills (e.g., chemistry, nursing and engineering) needed to operate a mini-mill successfully. These are skills that NSCC is well-positioned to provide to students seeking rewarding careers available at companies like North Star BlueScope Steel.

Thanks to NSBSS’s Tracy Brooks for her professional courtesy in making arrangements for this fieldtrip.