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Steel maker breaks more production records on road to recovery
A NORTH-EAST iron and steelmaker has hit new production records, fuelling hopes it will return to profit in the coming months.
Thai-owned SSI UK, which relit the mothballed Redcar blast furnace in April 2012, last week saw its BOS and Continuous Casting Plants break their output records for the second week in succession.
The BOS plant achieved its highest weekly tonnage since the restart of operations when it produced 64,896 tonnes of steel, bettering the previous week's output of 64,152 tonnes.
The Continuous Casting Plant also achieved its highest weekly tonnage since the restart of operations, when it produced 63,572 tonnes of steel slabs compared with 63,224 tonnes the previous week.
The latest production milestones follow the introduction last month of SSI's £38m pulverised coal injection (PCI) that will help the company to increase output and slash costs.
Steel chiefs expect the facility, which fires powered coal into the blast furnace, will lift production to about 3.4 million tonnes of iron each year, securing 1,800 Teesside jobs and saving an annual £60m in imported raw materials from the US and Australia.
In June, SSI recorded its largest ever shipment of steel slabs, with 87,869 tonnes sent from Teesport to SSI's Thai production plants which roll the steel into sheets used by the car and kitchen goods industries.
The improving results follow a tough spell for SSI which has relied upon multi-million pound cash injections from its Bangkok-based parent company to make ends meet.
The firm recorded a net loss of £35m in the first half of the year but the introduction of PCI and stabilising global steel prices has given SSI hope that its Teesside operations could shortly show a profit.
However, the firm is keeping a close eye on Thailand which has fallen into recession after the economy shrank unexpectedly in the second quarter of the year.
The 0.3 per cent contraction in gross domestic product between April and June followed a previous fall of 1.7 per cent during the first quarter of 2013 amid a sharp drop in domestic production. Car maker Toyota said last month industry-wide car sales in Thailand would likely fall 9.5 per cent this year.
Previously, Thailand had been recording strong economic growth, outpacing other economies in the region, with expansion of more than 6 per cent during 2012.
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