From the very beginning, JSW Steel USA has supported President Donald Trump’s policies to stimulate economic activity and block unfairly traded steel imports.
His policies would align with the vision JSW USA — a wholly owned subsidiary of JSW Group headquartered in India — has for the revitalization efforts for its Baytown plant, which will soon become the centerpiece of the steel industry and new the new standard.
“I think President (Donald) Trump and Secretary (Wilbur) Ross did exactly the right thing to help American Steel,” John Hritz said, CEO of JSW Steel USA. “The tariffs were a shot in the arm. But for someone like us, it gave us a window of opportunity, because once we get all the equipment installed, which will be so technologically advanced, our cost structure and our quality will be the best in the world.”
With the shift in the American steel market, JSW Steel is investing up to $500 million in Baytown to install a state-of-the-art and eco-friendly hot end facility.
Once the plant comes online in the next 16-18 months, JSW Steel will no longer import steel and will have the capability to easily produce 1 million tons of steel a year.
“Once we’re done with the hot end, we will be able to make plate for defense. We can’t do that now because it has to be melt and manufactured here,” Hritz said. “We’ll also be able to make plate for infrastructure aside from supplying pipe to the energy (industry).”
The new plant would give JSW Steel a significant advantage since the Trump administration implanted tariffs on steel and aluminum last year. This spurred its parent company in India to invest in its American steel plants, both in Ohio and Texas.
Before the tariffs were announced, JSW Steel had foresight and invested in its Baytown plant to develop an electric arc furnace that will make steel slabs. This will stop imports coming from India and Mexico — and paying tariffs.
“We import slabs now, but we will stop importing them as soon as we as put the hot end in and that’s the electric arc furnace and the slab castor,” Hritz said. “And the slab castor, there will be nothing like it in the world.”
JSW Steel has asked the Trump administration for an exclusion from the tariffs and believes that decision will be in its favor, which if granted, could accelerate the project.
“We’re standing by with our fingers crossed and we obviously believe we deserve the exclusion. And we think we will get it because we’re the only steel company that when we’re done in the next 16 to 18 months, won’t be importing slabs ever again. We’ll be making all of our own slabs in America.”
“And if we get (the money from the tariffs) back that would be a wonderful accelerator to the projects and to everything we’re doing,” he added.
Whether or not the exclusion is granted, JSW Steel will complete its “plate mill of the future,” putting Baytown on the map as a top producer of American steel.
Hritz said the project is on schedule and added the Baytown plant recently had its first shutdown — and expects another in June when additional equipment arrives.
“Each piece of equipment is like a project in and of itself,” Hritz said. “But everything is going wonderfully and going as planned. While want to get everything installed as quickly as possible we’re also making sure it’s installed as safely as possible.”
The project is currently in phase one of a three-phase process and will soon install a hot leveler that will give the plant greater capability.
“The (leveler) we have in place today has the capability of 450 tons of force. But the new we will be putting in, for example, will be 4,500 tons,” Hritz said. “Everything we’re doing here we’re putting in something exponentially more capable and technologically a giant leap forward, and nothing like it in the country.”
Phase two will include the construction of a new melting and casting facility.
To develop such a technologically advanced steel mill, JSW is utilizing Tenova, who will supply to electric arc furnace, Primetals, who is providing the slab castor and Denali, who are working side-by-side with JSW to modernize the plant.
This project marks the first equipment installation and upgrades to the facility since U.S. Steel was built it in 1968, and it will have a significant impact on Baytown, the state of Texas and the U.S.
In Baytown, the immediate impact of the project will produce about 500 new jobs at the Baytown plant, according to a tax incentive agreement between JSW and Goose Creek CISD. And each of the 500 jobs will pay at least $62,000 per year, according to the agreement.
Hritz also anticipates the new facility will have a $5.8 billion economic impact on the Texas economy once its up and running.
Beyond the major expansion, JSW Steel has plans to eventually develop another parallel pipe milled known as a JCO type pipe mill, which is a different technology.
“A JCO mill would allow us to make pipe that could be utilized for all kinds of other markets that we do not participate in yet,” Hritz said.