The first integrated steel and iron mill west of the Mississippi River

EVRAZ North America | Pueblo | Product: Industrial

The first integrated steel and iron mill west of the Mississippi River, EVRAZ North America’s plant in Pueblo has manufactured rails for the railroad industry since 1881. As of late 2021, the factory is shifting its power source from coal to the sun. 

“It’s a partnership between Xcel Energy, EVRAZ, and Lightsource BP,” says David Ferryman, senior VP of the Pueblo Business Unit for EVRAZ North America. “What we had to bring to the table was land in a very sunny area of our country that’s perfect for solar.” 

Generated by nearly 300 sunny days in Pueblo annually, that power will stabilize the mill’s energy costs. “It produces about 90% of the energy that we consume,” Ferryman says, calling it “a win/win” for all three entities. 

But Ferryman says there’s another big reason Pueblo is ideal for rail manufacturing: “The two largest railroads in North America are on our doorstep in Colorado. We have the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF, railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad. We’re ideally located in the middle of their two networks. From a customer standpoint and supply chain, it’s ideal.” 

EVRAZ North America employs 1,300 people in Puebloa number Ferryman forecasts will grow to 1,500 by spring 2022including 260 at the rail mill. 

While the solar energy will power the old mill in the near term, construction is underway on a state-of-the-art replacement that’s scheduled to come online in 2023. The legacy mill makes 80-foot rails, and the new one will produce 320-foot rails. “They get welded into quarter-mile strings, so that’s a significant reduction in the number of welds,” Ferryman says. “That is of importance to the railroad companies. Fewer welds is better from a defects standpoint.” 

The new, more efficient electric arc furnace will replace the legacy blast furnace. “With the solar energy on top of that, we will only produce 0.1 tons of carbon emissions for every one ton of rail we produce,” Ferryman says. “A blast furnace with coal-based electricity produces about three tons of carbon per one ton of rail. We’re talking about 30 times more.” 

And that’s a significant reduction, considering the mill’s output is around 500,000 tons of rail a year. “We currently supply about 2,000 track miles of rail to the North America rail market. The new mill will have the capability of producing over 2,600 track miles of rail annually,” Ferryman says. “Safe to say we’ve produced around a quarter-million miles of railroad in our history! That’s enough rail to build a railroad to the moon!”

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here.