Nucor Steel Jackson Inc., a subsidiary of Nucor Corp., soon will apply to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for a permit to use scrap tires as an ingredient in making steel.
``We don't want the tires for their BTU advantage. Our main goal is to recover their carbon and steel,'' said James Sheble, general manager at Nucor Steel Jackson, which is located in the Jackson, Miss., suburb of Flowood.
Another Nucor subsidiary-Nucor Steel Auburn Inc. in Auburn, N.Y.-has used tires in the steelmaking process since March 2002, according to Stephen Green, environmental manager at Nucor Auburn.
The process to use tires in steelmaking was discovered some years ago by an engineer at another Nucor plant, Green said. Carbon is a vital substance in the melting and refining of steel, and recycled steel and tire rubber are both sources of carbon.
Using tires in steelmaking gives Nucor a low-cost alternative to coal, the traditional source of carbon in the process, according to Green. He estimated the average steel-belted passenger radial is 10- to 15-percent steel by weight, while a truck tire is as much as 30-percent steel.
``Ours is the first steel mill within Nucor to use this process on a full-scale, routine basis,'' he said. ``Our goal is to replace coal altogether, but right now we've eliminated about 75 percent of the coal we used to use.'' This saves Nucor Auburn about $1 million annually, he added.
When installed, the tire-burning process at Nucor Jackson should consume about 2,000 to 3,000 tires per day, or about 20 to 30 tons. However, the permitting process is still preliminary, according to Sheble, and the firm hopes it will be completed by the end of the year.
Other Nucor steel mills also are studying the adoption of the tire-burning process, and another steel company-Ipsco Inc. in Mobile, Ala.-plans to adopt the Nucor technology, according to Green.
``We've shared our information with a lot of other steel companies,'' he said. ``This is not a competitive issue.''
Based in Charlotte, N.C., Nucor Corp. is the largest steel producer in the U.S., with annual sales of more than $4.1 billion, according to the company Web site. It also claims to be the world's largest steel recycler, using more than 13 million tons of steel annually.