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Mammoth shredder feeds Valley steel mill

Mark Chapman, operations manager for Metalico Youngstown, stands in front of a “frag pile” consisting of “500 tons of cars and appliances.” (Staff photo / Ed Runyan)

YOUNGSTOWN — In the distance, a sign can be seen at the bottom of Gypsy Lane where it dead ends into U.S. Route 422:

“HUNGRY SHREDDER NEEDS SCRAP.”

Behind the sign is one of the few remaining Mahoning Valley steel mills — formerly the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works, now a tube mill owned by Vallourec Star.

It’s hard to see the shredder from Gypsy Lane, but you can frequently hear it working as you pass by, grinding and tumbling. And from Route 422, one can typically see piles of shredded and waiting-to-be shredded metal.

Trucks hauling scrap to the facility can be seen and trailers hauling crushed vehicles are also a common sight.

People driving past might wonder how the operation works, asking: Is it owned by Vallourec Star to provide raw materials for its tube mill? If not, where does the shredded metal go? Where does it come from?

METALICO AND VALLOUREC

Don Fleming, general manager of Metalico Youngstown, owner of the shredder, explained the operation.

First, Vallourec Star uses much of the shredded material that comes from Metalico Youngstown.

In fact, though Metalico is a separate company from Vallourec, the reason the shredder was located there decades ago was to provide the mill with raw materials used in making pipes, Fleming said.

Historically, Vallourec made up 85 percent of Metalico Youngstown’s business, Fleming said.

“We rely heavily on the relationship with the tube mill,” Fleming said. A rail car delivers the metal into Vallourec.

The percentage of material that goes to Vallourec has dropped below 85 percent in recent times.

“For the last 25 years we have partnered with Vallourec. A great deal of our ferrous product goes to Vallourec,” he said. Ferrous metal is metal that sticks to a magnet, Fleming explained.

The material comes to the the shredder from “feeder” scrap yards all over the area. Metalico has a few feeder scrap yards of its own in Warren and Sharon.

“Everything is generated by the public — your car, your washing machine, your bicycle, your aluminum siding. Everything you have comes from feeder yards. We are a production yard, but we also take materials directly from the public,” Fleming said.

“Sometimes people like to go to their local scrap yard instead of going to a production yard,” because it is less intimidating.

In Akron, Metalico has a production yard. But on the other side of the street is a feeder yard — a scrap yard called Harry’s. “People just like to go to Harry’s,” Fleming said.

“The production yard chops the metal up into little pieces,” Fleming said. The non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum, copper and brass, go to foundries in Ohio, elsewhere in the United States and overseas.

SHREDDER AND SHEARER

On a tour of the facility, Mark Chapman, Metalico Youngstown operations manager, explained that two huge pieces of equipment process scrap — the shredder and the shearer. They are located a couple of hundred yards from each other, both just in front of Vallourec Star.

Any material one quarter inch in thickness or less goes into the shredder. Material larger than that goes into the shearer.

The smaller material is called “tin metal” and includes items such as washing machines, dryers, cars and the the motors in cars.

The larger items that go to the shearer include I-beams, tanks and other items with a heavy gauge steel in them. The shearer has a sort of guillotine on one end that cuts the material before it is carried away on a conveyor belt.

The yard was not shearing or shredding any material in late October because the facility was on shutdown to replace the liners in the shredder. The liners take the brunt of the impact when scrap is fed into the shredder, so they have to be replaced every six months, Chapman said.

For this reason, the yard had about 1,000 tons of material in a huge pile. Normally there would be about 200 to 300 tons when the facility is up and running.

The shredder is up high on a platform and has a cover over it, so it’s hard to see exactly how it works.

But Chapman showed a rotor on the ground that does most of the work. The rotor, which normally has “hammers” on it, turns in the shredder and “beats” the scrap metal until it is ground up into the proper size.

Chapman explained that after the materials goes into the shredder, it exits on a conveyor and then a “series of magnetized conveyors” separate the various types of metals.

A “picker” pulls out anything that is not steel, such as seat belts. The material goes down a final belt and “into the frag pile,” he said. The frag is the primary component in steelmaking, he said.

Automobiles are a key component of producing frag. There were piles of automobiles at the yard waiting for the operation to reopen. Hazardous fluids and materials are removed from the vehicles before they are shredded, Chapman said.

Metalico also has facilities in Akron and in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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