Tata Steel UK announces it will shut down Morfa Coke Ovens in Port Talbot this Wednesday, March 20.

CEO Rajesh Nair expressed regret as he gave a statement today on what he called ‘the unavoidable decision’ to shut down operations at the Morfa Coke Ovens from Wednesday, March 20, due to a significant decline in operational stability.

He noted that recent discussions with union representatives acknowledged the necessity of discontinuing operations at Morfa Coke Ovens and one of the blast furnaces this summer.

Nair highlighted that despite considerable efforts by the team, the performance of the coke ovens had been deteriorating for several months, leading to a state where continued operation is no longer viable.

The process of safely shutting down and purging the coke ovens and ceasing operations at the adjacent By-Products plant will commence.  The ovens are used to heat coal to create a hard residue called coke which is then used to fuel blast furnaces.

He said that efforts will be made in the following weeks to align the ambitions of the current coke oven workforce with the broader ongoing consultation program.

Steel unions said they had been aware of concerns about the condition of the coke ovens for some time, and have previously said they would not oppose an early closure on safety grounds, however they asked for reassurances over the 200 jobs affected by the closure.

Nair extended his heartfelt gratitude to everyone involved with the Morfa Coke Ovens since its inception in 1981, admiring their spirit and teamwork. He stressed that their contributions have been vital for the survival of the Port Talbot works and that they should be proud of their role in the team.

He mentioned that their current restructuring plans recognize many of Port Talbot’s heavy-end assets are reaching the end of their life. In line with attempts to reduce losses and considering the state of these assets, there is a proposal to phase out the heavy-end iron and steelmaking assets at Port Talbot within the year. Nair also mentioned Tata Steel’s £1.25 billion investment in electric arc furnace-based capacity, which aims to ensure the longevity of steelmaking in Port Talbot and transition towards low-CO2 steelmaking. Consultations regarding these changes are currently in progress.

About 200 workers are likely to be affected, but at this stage uncertainty remains about their immediate future.

Steelworkers’ Union Community said in a statement:

“The early closure of the coke ovens is a massive blow but we knew they have been deteriorating and our number one concern is the safety of our members.

“Tata know the unions will not accept any compulsory redundancies and we are working to conclude negotiations on an enhanced redundancy and retention package.

“Regretfully the coke ovens were always going to close during the transition period, but once the national consultations conclude we will ballot for industrial action should Tata confirm their intention to close Blast Furnace Number 4.”


Image credit: Tata Steel