REUTERS - Tata Steel(TISC.NS) has restarted a blast furnace, one of its two at its Port Talbot site in Britain, after a six-month halt for an upgrade, subsidiary Tata Steel UK said on Tuesday.
The blast furnace was decommissioned in July before being rebuilt to incorporate new technology to improve energy, environmental and performance efficiency, it said.
"We have been able to take advantage of a period of low steel demand to carry out this major engineering project, and we are still operating today in an intensely challenging commercial environment," Karl Köhler, chief executive of Tata Steel UK, said in a statement.
"Restarting the furnace will help us improve our delivery performance ... but we will continue to manage our output at levels appropriate to market conditions."
Steel consumption in Europe fell by 9.7 percent last year and is expected to fall by 0.7 percent this year, before a 3.0 percent increase in 2014, European steel industry lobby Eurofer estimated.
In the past six months, when only one of the two blast furnaces was operating at Port Talbot, a site in Wales, Tata Steel UK had to bring in slab, a semi-finished steel product, from other locations to feed its strip mills.
With the restart of the second blast furnace, the facility is self sufficient, which will reduce costs a bit, a spokesman for the company said.
Tata Steel UK, with its main steel-making operations in the UK and the Netherlands, is the second-largest steel producer in Europe.
(Reporting by Silvia Antonioli; editing by Jane Baird)