Tata blast furnace in Port Talbot is shut off for the last time in historic day

-Credit: (Image: John Myers)
-Credit: (Image: John Myers)

A blast furnace has been turned off at the Port Talbot site today - marking the end of an era. Local residents were told to expect to see large plumes of smoke and a "whoosing" noise as Blast Furnace 5 is turned off and Tata confirmed the furnace ceased operations at 5pm on Thursday.

The furnace has been providing molten iron at the site since 1959, but closes as part of the plans for more greener energy. The other furnace will end production of liquid iron in September.

Arc furnaces, which are more environmentally friendly, are set to replace the traditional blast furnaces at the Port Talbot steelworks, but they require thousands fewer staff - meaning up to 2,800 people could be made redundant.

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The closure comes on the same day as millions across the UK vote in the 2024 General Election. Senior figures in the Labour party had visited the site during the campaign to urge the company to wait for a possible Labour government so fresh talks could take place. The hope is that one furnace can be left on while a transition to green steel production takes place - something a union has called for.

Dean Cartwright, works manager for coke sinter and iron, said: "I am able to confirm that we have completed the closure process of Blast Furnace 5 safely and have made the final tap of molten material.

"It is a bitter-sweet moment for many of us, and I know will be for many people in our steel and local communities, not least for those who have been affected by the explosion in 2001 – we were all thinking of them over recent days.

"I feel very proud to have been part of the team that has managed the process so expertly and safely and honoured to have been part of this piece of history.

"It is of course extremely sad that we have seen the last of operations on Blast Furnace 5, but we have to look to the future and the opportunity not only to sustain steelmaking here in Port Talbot, but to be an early adopter of electric arc furnace steelmaking of flat carbon steels in Europe.

"I’d like to thank all those involved in the closure process and to all those in our local communities who have been so supportive and understanding at such a difficult time."

Tata Steel UK’s CEO, Rajesh Nair said: “All those who have been involved in operating and maintaining Blast Furnace 5 since it started operations in 1959 should take a great deal of pride in the part they have played in underpinning the UK manufacturing industry for so many years.

“Our challenge is now to focus on a more sustainable and competitive future for our business that will ensure the continuation of steelmaking in the UK for generations to come.”