Green Jobs in a NW Indiana Steel Mill? Energy Recovery Project Begins

When thinking of environmentally sustainable regions, northwest Indiana is usually not the first region to spring to mind.  The heavily industrialized region has long seen heavy concentrations of water and air pollution, and environmental historian William Cronon used Gary as a setting in his book Nature’s Metropolis to contrast industrial urban areas with his preferred Wisconsin countryside.

While the landscape may remain heavily industrialized, at least one of those industrial sites is attempting to reclaim some of the tremendous energy expended in its operations.  With the help of some stimulus funding, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor is implementing  a $63.2 million energy recovery and reuse project and create 360 jobs over the next 18 months, the company announced in the autumn.

The project means one of the giant “torches” on Northwest Indiana’s skyline will be virtually extinguished in two years. Rather than burning waste gas from its No. 7 blast furnace in its flares, ArcelorMittal will route the gases to a new boiler that will produce steam and generate enough electricity to power 30,000 homes for a year….

In addition to short-term job creation, ArcelorMittal will reduce its emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases in the long term. When the project is complete in the third quarter of 2012, it will generate about 38 megawatts of electricity annually — enough to power 30,000 homes.

The U.S. Department of Energy contributed $31.6 million in matching funds from taxpayers to the project. That’s a key factor in making the project a reality at a time when it would normally be less viable because natural gas prices are low, company reps said.

“This is a very big power and efficiency project. It will, somewhere, reduce what’s being used to produce electricity so it’ll have significant environmental benefits,” said Mark Whalen, vice president and general manager of ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor. “It really helps us secure the future of the plant. Without the DOE funding, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Project manager and engineer John Seaman said the company would recoup its $31.6 million investment in about a year to a year and a half, which brings the project within the two-year pay-back time that the company normally requires.

Sustainable energy development and policy measures are examined in several Roosevelt courses, including SUST 210 The Sustainable Future (offered this term by Adjunct Professor Michele Hoffman-Trotter at Roosevelt’s downtown campus , and by Professor Mike Bryson at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg campus and online), and SUST 310 Energy and Climate Change. For more information on these or any other of our courses, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email applyRU@roosevelt.edu.

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