The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tatas test waters for new Haldia venture

Calcutta, Aug. 31: A coke oven battery plant that feeds steel units could be the only Tata venture in Haldia if their plan to leave the petrochemicals project — Bengal’s Rs 5,170-crore showpiece enterprise — stands.

Writers’ Building sources said the state government has already sent a blueprint to the Tatas recently. “They are examining the project,” sources said.

West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation managing director Gopal Krishna said: “It is too early to comment on the project. It will take a month to crystallise.” He would not say if the Tatas had evinced interest in the project. “Nothing can be said at this stage.”

Industry sources say chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had sounded the Tatas about the plan during his recent Mumbai visit, where he tried convincing industrialists to consider investments in Bengal.

WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee indicated at a press conference held last Monday that talks between the state government and the Tatas were under way.

Coke oven battery plant is a backward integration project for steel companies. Coke, the feedstock used in iron-smelting blast furnaces, is coal in its processed form. Coke oven battery is a set of ovens that turn coal into coke.

Tata Steel has coke oven battery units in Jamshedpur. The fifth one cost it Rs 208.85 crore to set up, and helped it emerge as the lowest-cost steel producer.

“As long as coke is required for steel making, the batteries will continue to provide Tisco a competitive edge globally. This has enabled the company to produce the lowest cost steel,” said a steel industry expert.

The Tatas adopted the stamp-charged coke-making technology of Germany’s Saaberg Inter Plan. Though Otto India built the 70-oven battery on Thyssen Still Otto’s design, the oven machinery and other important facilities had been supplied and commissioned by Tata Robin Fraser, a subsidiary of Tata Steel.

Tata Steel has decided to pump in Rs 11,000 crore over the next eight years to boost its steel making capacity at Jamshedpur by 3 million tonnes. It will infuse Rs 2,000 crore immediately to ramp up capacity by 1 million tonnes and pour in Rs 4,000 crore to raise output by 1.5 to 2 million tonnes over five to eight years.

“For the capacity addition, the company will require coke oven plants. At the same time, the fortunes of the steel industry have looked up in the past couple of months. Against this backdrop, we are upbeat on the chances that the Tatas would consider the state government’s project and come to Bengal,” said an official of the commerce and industry department.

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