U.S. Steel anticipates $40M in losses from Clairton Coke Works fire |

U.S. Steel anticipates $40M in losses from Clairton Coke Works fire

Jamie Martines
U.S. Steel employees and visitors tour the C Battery during opening day ceremonies Jan. 31, 2013 for the new facility at Clairton Coke Works.

U.S. Steel is anticipating $40 million in costs during the first quarter of 2019 related to the Dec. 24 fire at Clairton Coke Works, according to earnings reports released Wednesday.

Between $15 million and $20 million will be related to physical repair costs, U.S. Steel Chief Financial Officer Kevin Bradley told investors Thursday.

“The bulk of the remainder is the natural gas purchase cost in lieu of the coke oven gases we would have been utilizing,” Bradley said.

The Clairton facility started using a blend of natural gas and coke oven gas following the December fire. Coke oven gas is typically recycled to fuel processes at the Clairton facility, according to statements from U.S. Steel.

Not including fire-related losses, U.S. Steel expects to make about $225 million during the first quarter of 2019, according to investor reports released Wednesday.

The company reported a profit of $1.12 billion in 2018, up from $387 million in 2017.

The December fire affected a control room — an area about the size of a football field — and damaged equipment that allows the facility to remove sulfur from coke oven gas, according to statements from U.S. Steel.

The Allegheny County Health Department issued an alert on Jan. 9, 2.5 weeks after the fire, advising residents — especially those with asthma, bronchitis or emphysema, as well as children and the elderly — that there could be higher than usual sulfur dioxide, or SO2, emissions as a result.

An investigation of the exact cause of the fire is ongoing, but repairs that will have the equipment operating at 70 percent capacity are expected to be completed by May 15.

After calls from Mon Valley residents for increased oversight and monitoring of air quality, U.S. Steel partnered with the health department to install additional air quality monitors near Clairton Coke Works.

Monitors located at Clairton Education Center and U.S. Steel’s Irvin Works will measure SO2 levels. A third measuring benzene will also be installed near Irvin Works.

There have been no SO2 exceedances in the Mon Valley since Jan. 8, according to health department records.

The health department does expect Feb. 1 to be a poor air dispersion day across Allegheny County and is advising residents, particularly those with existing respiratory conditions, that they may need to limit outdoor activities.

“Poor air dispersion traps pollutants close to the ground, and there is the potential for higher than normal readings for both SO2 and PM 2.5,” a health department announcement released Thursday said.

Fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5, are fine, inhalable particles that could pose health risks, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.