Nucor targets US East Coast offshore wind energy build-out

Nucor Corp's new low carbon heavy gauge steel plate product, Elcyon — to be produced at its new $1.7 billion Brandenburg, Kentucky plate mill — is designed for a planned offshore wind energy build-out on the East Coast of 30 gigawatts by 2030, according to Frank Fisher, director of energy solutions at Nucor

Nucor has invested heavily in the manufacturing capabilities at its Brandenburg plant in order to capture a significant share of the 7.5 million tons of plate that will be needed to build out the targeted capacity authorized by Congress last year, Fisher told Fastmarkets on Monday January 23.

“For offshore wind specifically, we are in the sweet spot to provide the unique [product] capabilities [required],” Fisher said. “We can meet the engineering specs from the offshore wind developers, the unique specs of the grade — the chemistry, the mechanical properties, and the gauge and piece weights.”

Further, Fisher added, Nucor’s plate can be produced with a greenhouse gas emissions intensity that is one fifth of the global average for blast furnaces, giving it a “sustainability advantage” that can help energy suppliers build “a reputation for using sustainable materials that will beat anything that they’re going to be able to get out of either Europe or Asia.”

By comparison, Nucor’s chief competitors for building out US wind power infrastructure, in Asia and Europe, use blast furnaces to make steel.

Given that low carbon steel often comes with a “green premium” or higher price, Nucor will be competing against companies that may have a lower cost structure — and with that a product pricing advantage, Fastmarkets understands.

But according to Caleb Strother, commercial director of plate and structural products at Nucor Brandenburg, Elcyon provides value for its green steel premium cost that will accrue over the life cycle of the wind projects.

While there is no current requirement that offshore wind projects purchase steel from domestic providers, Strother said the Inflation Reduction Act “incentivizes a high domestic content of components, and steel is of course a very large component of that.”

The Brandenburg plate mill can also produce much larger plates for the monopiles that are to be built offshore, allowing builders to use fewer plates and, in turn, reduce the welding requirements for the project, Strother explained.

Achieving offshore wind power goals will require a rapid scale-up of the domestic supply chain and $22.4 billion in infrastructure investments, according to the estimates of a study released on Monday by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US Department of Energy.

The NREL study was funded by the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, with additional funds from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Maryland Energy Administration.

The Brandenburg plate mill, started in October 2020, rolled its first steel plate on December 30 and has the capacity to produce 1.2 million tons of steel annually.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of steel cut-to-length plate carbon grade, fob mill US at $71 per hundredweight ($1,420 per short ton) on January 17, flat for the fifth week in a row.

Elcyon is a trademark of Nucor Corporation.

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