The company, which has been owned by India’s Tata Steel since 2007, produces 5 million tonnes of steel a year at Port Talbot and employs 3,500 people.
The investment was made at the site’s basic oxygen steel-making process which converts molten iron into steel. Corus has fitted new gas recovery equipment which catches and stores carbon monoxide gas for use as a fuel elsewhere on site. Previously the gas was flared, wasting energy and releasing carbon dioxide.
The recovered gas is used in the power plant to generate 10% of the site’s electricity needs. This allows higher-energy gas from the coke ovens to be used more effectively in the steel strip mill, reducing natural gas consumption at the mill by 60%.
The energy saving means the investment will pay back in just two years.
Gas recovery will reduce Port Talbot’s annual carbon emissions by 3% and Tata Steel Europe’s emissions by 1%. It will also reduce the site’s emissions of particulate matter by 40 tonnes per year, improving air quality.
Paul Brooks, Corus’s group environment manager, said although gas recovery is widely used on newer steelworks, retrofitting it to an existing plant was a unique and challenging undertaking that involved re-engineering the site’s energy system, a task that had previously been considered too difficult and too expensive.
Tata Steel Europe’s chief executive Kirby Adams said the project was the biggest investment in the UK Steel industry since Tata acquired Corus and part of the company’s commitment to steelmaking in Wales.