I have had a real blast - but now it's time to look towards future

Published date27 November 2022
Publication titleSunday Sun
THERE are only a few people in Teesside who have seen more of blast furnaces than Damian Havelock

Damian started work in the iron and steel industry aged 18, in 1985, and continued until the Redcar Blast Furnace shut down in 2015.

Born in Normanby, and schooled at St Peter's Catholic College, South Bank, his career was forged in fire as a day labourer on the Bessemer Blast Furnaces at Cleveland Iron. He was there for eight years before moving to the continuous casting plant until iron and steelmaking was mothballed in 2010.

He was then employed at Redcar Power Station for two years as an energy distribution controller. When hope returned in 2012, he went to the Redcar Blast Furnace as production manager, and remained on the plant until it closed three years later.

The hope surrounding this restart is a memory he holds fondly.

"Nobody envisaged this happening when the plant was first mothballed," said Damian.

""his restart allowed many new and young people to come into the industry. To watch them develop, to see the expressions on their faces when they first saw glimpses of the processes - the massive amounts of molten material, machinery of enormous size and capacity, and noises that I am sure frightened most at first, the smells of sulphur, gas, slag and many other products. That was memorable and satisfying."

" While a sad moment, Damian said thefinal blowdown of the blast furnace in 2015 was the ultimate achievement of his career.

The type of operation Damian led seven years ago was normally planned for months in advance because of its complexity, danger, and the resources needed. The small team at RBF was given just 36 hours' notice to start it.

But, despite the huge challenge, they managed to pull it of - taking the blast furnace down to "Tuyere level" safely.

A tuyere is a nozzle which blasts into the furnace. The blast furnace was operational 24/7 - and there was no switching it of f unless it required a reline.

This process would see the furnace mothballed, and an extra hole known as a salamander tap was drilled to drain the last liquid iron from the furnace hearth.

But no salamander tap was ever drilled for the Redcar Blast Furnace in 2015 - and now a huge solid lump of iron sits at the furnace base. The Tuyere level is the lowest temperature a furnace can be taken without drilling a salamander tap.

Damian. added: ""he most disappointing time for me in the industry was when I realised that the people who had joined us only three years previously...

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