FARRELL, Pa. (WKBN) – One of the most important ingredients when handling steel is heat. A Shenango Valley company has a new tool to keep the temperature more uniform and reduce the number of problem spots. Today, we got a look at the giant furnace that brings the heat!

Shaping steel requires heat, and NLMK has a furnace that breathes fire in Farrell at 2,300 degrees.

“So this furnace gives us a huge increase in our surface quality of our products we’re making,” said Bill Benson, vice president of operations for NLMK.

A reach stacker uses two magnets to move a 22-ton steel slab. NLMK now moves them into a walking beam furnace, which means the steel slabs can be lifted, lowered or slid inside the furnace. It can hold 42 slabs, 2 inches apart.

“So we’ve only been running the furnace a month, but what we forecast is we’ll be able to get in products and market segments that we weren’t able to before because of that surface quality,” Benson said.

That’s a big boost to the company’s 750 workers.

The steel slabs up to 12 inches thick get a water bath when coming out of the furnace. The descaling that is knocked off is all recyclable.

“Before, they used to just push them on. It was like a railroad track and they always got scars and stuff under the slabs. When you roll that, that comes out. So they’ve eliminated a huge, big problem. It’s great,” said Joe Schroeder, of Hubbard.

NLMK welcomed back retirees to see the walking beam furnace. It had been talked about in 2006, and finally, new ownership approved the $95 million project. It took 18 months to build.

“This new automation they have nowadays is really something,” said Mike Johnson, of Hubbard.

That technology makes the walking beam furnace work faster than the three older furnaces. It can get 20 slabs an hour through the furnace, but it’s also eco-friendly.

“So it’s not really about more production. It’s really about a better product, better energy efficient and lower emissions,” Benson said.

The steel is pounded and stretched out, and made into steel coils. Ultimately, it’s used in many galvanized steel products like heating ducts and building ties, among other things.