The first new steel mill in Youngstown, Ohio, in decades is being built to supply small-diameter steel pipe for robust activity in Marcellus Shale gas-and-oil exploration. The plant is conveniently located within the geologic formation’s perimeter. Marcellus Shale is a Devonian formation situated within North America’s Allegheny Plateau.

The $650-million V&M Star mill, to be sited next to an existing V&M mill, will enable the owner to fill rising demand for smaller tubes ranging in size from 23⁄8 in. to 7 in. “It’s got to be the first new steel-making facility [in the area] in at least 40 years,” says Roger Lindgren, president of V&M Star.

Initial production of the new mill will be 350,000 tonnes annually, with a capacity of 500,000 tonnes. U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel played into the decision to build the new mill in Ohio, though officials of V&M Star and its French parent company, Vallourec Group, were circumspect on the topic. Lindgren says the company relies on the International Trade Commission and others to guard its trade laws. “Many local leaders call it a ‘transformative’ project,” Lindgren says. “It’s a great example of regional cooperation.”

The 1,000,000-sq-ft mill has been in the conceptual design phase since 2008. Construction should begin in May, with pile-driving, Lindgren says, although a general contractor has not yet been selected.

The mill will create 350 full-time jobs and 400 construction jobs. Operations are scheduled to start at the end of 2011. The company currently is hiring engineering and administrative staff and will be hiring maintenance workers and employees with specialized skills six months from now, Lindgren says.

“The plant also is being built because we believe in the future of natural gas in the U.S.,” Lindgren says.