The steel industry is critical to the U.S. economy. Steel is the material of choice for many elements of manufacturing, construction, transportation, and various consumer products. Traditionally valued for its strength, steel has also become the most recycled material.1 About two-thirds of the steel produced in the United States in 2008 was made from scrap.2
Steelmaking facilities use one of two processes. In the integrated steelmaking process, iron is extracted from iron ore in the blast furnace and the molten product is then mixed with recycled steel and refined with oxygen in the basic oxygen furnace (BOF). In electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking, recycled steel is the primary input (virtually 100%), although other iron-bearing materials may be used. The less energy-intensive EAF process accounted for about 62% of U.S. steelmaking in 2011.2
The U.S. iron and steel industry and ferrous foundries produced goods valued at an estimated $103 billion in 2011.3 The U.S. steel industry accounted for 6% of global crude steel production and provided over 95 million short tons of crude steel in 2011.4 Large quantities of low-cost imports have challenged the industry in recent years, but restructuring, downsizing, and widespread implementation of new technologies have led to vastly improved labor productivity, energy efficiency, and yield.
The industry employed more than 135,000 people working at 100 facilities in 2010.5 As a result of industry consolidation, the number of steelmaking facilities has decreased significantly over the last few decades. The highest geographic concentration of mills is in the Great Lakes region, including Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York.
The U.S. steel industry is vital to both economic competitiveness and national security. Steel is the backbone of bridges, skyscrapers, railroads, automobiles, and appliances. More than 3,000 catalog grades of steel are currently available, not including custom grades for specific uses.
The United States historically produced an average of 106 million short tons of steel (2005-2008).1 After a decline in response to the economic recession of 2009, the industry is recovering.
The U.S. iron and steel industry relies heavily on coal and natural gas for fuel, and is one of the largest energy consumers in the manufacturing sector. In 2006 the industry used 1.48 quadrillion Btu of primary energy (excluding feedstocks)6, amounting to $6.69 billion in energy costs for heat and power.7 The industry has made significant improvements in energy intensity over the last decades, reducing energy use per unit of output by about 30% from 1990 to 2009.8
1Steel Recycling Institute
2 American Iron and Steel Institute, Annual Statistical Report 2009
3 U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals Yearbook 2012, Vol . I, Metals & Minerals, Iron and Steel
4 World Steel Association, Crude Steel Production 2011
5 American Iron and Steel Institute, Industry Profile
6 U.S. Department of Energy, "Manufacturing Energy and Carbon Footprints," prepared by Energetics Incorporated
7 U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Annual Survey of Manufactures
8 American Iron and Steel Institute, Profile of the American Iron and Steel Institute 2010-2011