Final push will signal the end of an era
5 September 2023
It will be an historic day on Thursday, September 15* when the LIBERTY Primary Steel Whyalla Steelworks coke ovens complete their final push and are decommissioned.
It will be the end of an era, marking 55 years and 53 days since the first push was completed for one of the longest continually operating coke ovens batteries in the world.
John Baggs, one of the former Coke Ovens Managers, recalls being there for the first push on 24 July, 1968.
He said there was more than 100 people to witness the event and remembers seeing the coke being quenched against a bright blue sky. When the coke, used to fire the blast furnaces in the steelmaking process, is quenched, water is dumped on the hot coke to cool it down.
John said the first push was a spectacular sight.
“It was one thing that caught your eye because you had this great wall of red-hot coke tumbling out towards you and then seeing the quench of the white steam going up against a bright blue sky was unbelievable,” he said.
It wasn’t just the ovens that created such a rich and colourful history, it was also the people with a veritable United Nations diversity of workforce. While many came and went, one thing that stood out for many employees at Whyalla was the friendships and comradery while undertaking this hot and dirty work.
“We had better relationships with our employees because we weren’t as big as Port Kembla or Newcastle and so our workforce was smaller meaning the relationships were closer,” one former manager said.
“It was no different to a small town versus a big town really”.
Many of those workers will be coming together, with present day workers, to celebrate the Whyalla coke ovens’ rich history during September in the lead up to the closure.
The coke ovens closure is another step in the GFG Alliance CN30 (Carbon Neutral by 2030) strategy for Whyalla. It follows the announcement in April that an Electric Arc Furnace has been commissioned for the Whyalla Steelworks to replace the coke-fired blast furnaces.
*Note: Scheduled closure date may change due to operational schedules.
MAIN IMAGE: The first charge at the coke ovens on 23 July 1968.