On Tuesday, October 12, 1954, the
first 40-ton heat of oxygen steel in
North America was poured at Dofasco
and the world of steelmaking was
changed forever.
Basic oxygen steelmaking came right
on the heels of the company’s first blast
furnace and coke plant in 1951 and was
the pioneering of a revolutionary process,
first developed in Austria.
The BOF used a lance inserted into the
mouth of the vessel which would spray
oxygen, under high pressure, over the
surface of molten iron, causing rapid
combustion, burning out the excess
carbon and impurities from the iron
and converting it into steel. The result
was the highest quality steel available
at the time. Even though most U.S. and
Canadian steel producers felt the process
wasn’t economically feasible for the
North American steel industry, Dofasco
felt its tests proved otherwise.
Spearheaded by John F. McMulkin, who
would later head up a newly minted
research department, the company’s
research engineers, metallurgists and
steelmakers tested the process for two
years. The first vessel was made on site
using two ladles, one welded on top of
the other. This “jerry built” vessel, as
Mr. McMulkin called it, was built in two
weeks and produced its first standard
sized ingot in November 1952. It was
just two weeks before that the first
commercial BOF plant in the world was
commissioned at Linz, Austria.
After the first vessel, they conducted
tests in a pilot plant to validate
the method and products before
constructing the company’s first oxygen
steelmaking plant in 1954. Dofasco
engineered the first BOF shop exclusively
for the new process as the Austrian
developed technology was built in open
hearth structures. The new operations
consisted of an oxygen producing plant
capable of producing 100 tons of high
purity oxygen daily as well as the vessels,
each capable of turning out 40 tons of
steel in less than one hour.
The operation lasted a little more than
minutes and produced more steel,
of higher quality, at a dramatically lower
cost. With the success of the BOF, four
open hearths and two electric furnaces
were shut down.
Franz Jonas, President of Austria,
eventually visited Dofasco in 1967 to
see the oxygen steelmaking operations.
By this point, the technology was widely
used in Canada and the United States
and Japan.
Anything but basic