The Amanda Furnace and BOF at the former Armco/AK Steel Ashland Works were simultaneously imploded at 8:30 AM this morning. Steelmaking operations were idled on December 15, 2015, and the plant was closed for good by November 2019.
The Hanging Rock Iron Region in southern Ohio, northeastern Kentucky, and western West Virginia produced iron between 1818 and 1916, which helped build armaments for the Civil War, hulls for the Monitor and Merrimac ships, kettles and pots, tools, and wagon wheels. It was predicted that iron ore in the Hanging Rock Iron Region would last for 2,700 years but most of the iron seams had been depleted by the 1900s.
Traditional blast furnaces, a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce pig iron, continued to be built until 1963 when the Amanda opened at Armco’s Ashland Works. The crown jewel of the steelmaking industry, it was the largest of its type in the world.
Ashland Works at its peak was the second-largest facility by Armco. It boasted the world’s first continuous sheet rolling mill, which was later replaced with a hot-strip mill in 1953. A cold reduction mill, strip pickler, light gauge Zincgrip line, and a heavy gauge Zincgrip line were completed in 1954. Armco had developed the Zincgrip process in 1936 by offering the first zinc-coated (and later aluminum-coated) coils that were far superior to older processes. The open-hearth furnaces were shut down in 1969, which coincided with the start-up of the basic oxygen furnace complex (BOF).
But the massive $65 million project to reline the Amanda Furnace in 1984 was one of the last major capital projects Armco put into the plant. There was a desire to consolidate Ashland Works with Middletown, Ohio’s facilities in an effort to reduce steelmaking costs. Armco – and its successor, AK Steel, was one of the worst performers for steel production during a recession in the 1990s, losing $40 to $50 per ton while most other integrated steel mills were losing only $20 per ton. Ashland Works required 6½ man-hours to produce one ton of steel, compared with three to four hours at a similarly integrated mill and less than one hour at a mill equipped with an electric arc furnace.
The hot strip mill was shut down in 1992 which was replaced by a slab caster that provided steel slabs for refinement in Middletown. Ingot production was soon retired as being too costly. The sinter plant, cold strip mill, temper mills, pickling lines, annealing lines, and machine shop were idled in 1995, followed by the Bellefonte Furnace in 1996. By 1997, the Amanda Furnace, two basic oxygen furnace vessels, desulfurization facilities, a six-strand bloom caster, a single strand continuous caster, and a hot-dip galvanized coating line were all that was left of Ashland Works.
The slab caster was modified and the vacuum degassing unit was added in 2004, the only major capital improvement to come to Ashland Works in decades. It was to improve the facility’s cost structure and to improve steel quality exported for Toyota, which exacted and demanded rigorous standards.
Amanda Furnace was idled because of excess imported steel that had flooded the domestic market on December 15, 2015. The hot-dip galvanizing line that primarily served automotive customers (Toyota) remained open until November 2019, when the last light at Ashland Works was turned off.
Cleveland-Cliffs acquired AK Steel at the end of the year, and demolition was started of Ashland Works’s steelmaking facilities began soon after. Scrap steel from demolition is being recycled at other Cliff facilities, and the ground will be prepared for redevelopment.
- 2:21 Amanda Furnace Implosion
- 3:52 Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) Flyover