VINEYARD, Utah County -- Shortly after a federal judge approved a financing plan to keep Geneva Steel afloat, a problem with an essential piece of equipment kept the plant from making steel for several days.
A small fire in the Q-BOP two weekends ago stopped production while crews worked to repair wiring and piping in the machinery. The Q-BOP, which runs 24 hours a day, turns iron into steel. During the process, oxygen is used as fuel to remove carbon from the iron at a temperature of about 3,000 degrees.The oxygen turns into carbon monoxide. After being quenched and scrubbed to remove fine particulates, the carbon monoxide is flared at the top of the stack, turning it into carbon dioxide. An orange flame atop the stack familiar to those who drive past Geneva on a regular basis wasn't burning during the outage.
Ken Johnsen, Geneva executive vice president, said the fire halted steelmaking for a few days but didn't keep the company from filling orders.
The mill, he said, is running at low enough production levels that it can make up for the down time. The plant is currently operating at about half capacity. Johnsen said had it been at 100 percent production, the situation would have been very costly.
Officials view the problem as a minor setback in their attempt to get the ailing mill back on its feet.
"We didn't perceive it as a big enough deal to do any kind of news release on it," Johnsen said Wednesday.
Geneva made headlines almost daily late last month after filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy and having a U.S. bankruptcy judge threaten to close it down. The company staved off a shutdown by maneuvering its case to U.S. District Court, where a judge granted it a $125 million borrowing plan.
A glut of low-priced imports the past year decreased the demand for Geneva's hot-rolled and plate steel. Industry observers are expecting a turnaround in the next few months as the U.S. Department of Commerce considers placing tariffs on future shipments from foreign companies.
Geneva has laid off nearly 1,000 workers since early last year as steel prices plummeted and production dropped off. Company officials have said they intend to call back workers as the market improves.