According to The Nikkei Asia, top Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel plans to fire up an idled a blast furnace again by the end of the year in response to rising orders from the domestic automobile and consumer electronics industries, Nikkei has learned.
The group looks to restart No. 2 blast furnace at the Kimitsu works in Chiba Prefecture, across Tokyo Bay from Yokohama. The unit was idled in June because of a sudden drop in steel demand as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nippon Steel's move to bring capacity back online follows the restart of a blast furnace last month by domestic peer JFE Steel. A resumption by Nippon Steel will restore Japan's crude steel capacity to roughly 90% of pre-coronavirus levels.
Demand from domestic customers is recovering, mostly in the auto industry. Nippon Steel is moving forward with preparations for a restart by the end of the year, but it could begin at an earlier date depending on order trends.
Japanese steelmakers have suspended blast furnaces since April. Nippon Steel idled six out of 15 domestic units, including those that had previously scheduled repair work pushed up. The closure of the Kimitsu blast furnace affected roughly 3,500 jobs.
JFE Steel halted the No. 4 blast furnace in Hiroshima Prefecture, one of eight Japanese units in its group. The company had planned to restart the furnace this month, but pushed the date forward to mid-September in response to a rebound in orders from the auto industry. One JFE Steel blast furnace is currently idled.
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