MOST, if not all, car makers in the UK use steel from Llanwern. The site creates more than half a million tonnes of finished product each year and serves as a base for the company's commercial team.

The eyes of the nation have turned to Port Talbot in recent weeks as Tata announced it was shutting both of the blast furnaces on-site in favour of a new electric arc furnace, which requires fewer people to work it.

The company expects to cut 2,500 jobs across the UK in the next 18 months and another 300 within three years. Although most affected roles are at Port Talbot, unions worry more broadly about the future of British steelmaking in Tata's hands.

We spoke to Tata Steel UK about the picture at Llanwern steelworks, just east of Newport.

Q: What work goes on at Llanwern?

A: Tata Steel’s Llanwern site has a number of different businesses operating on it, the main one being the cold rolling and galvanising operation that predominantly serves the UK automotive sector from its world class Zodiac line.

• ZODIAC stands for Zinc and Other Developments in Alloy Coatings.

Fundamentally, the business takes hot rolled coil from Port Talbot, pickles it in acid to remove the scale, and then rolls it thinner without any extra heating – cold rolling – for more precise applications.

South Wales Argus: The Zodiac line at Llanwern has been hailed as 'world-class'The Zodiac line at Llanwern has been hailed as 'world-class' (Image: Tata Steel)

That cold rolled product can be sold into a variety of applications or galvanised – coated with zinc – for mainly automotive and construction applications, sold to customers such as BMW MINI, Jaguar LandRover and Nissan.

On the site, there is also a Heavy Gauge Decoiler, which provides thicker material for applications such as earthmoving equipment, and a Construction and Engineering Products business which produces crash barrier systems, amongst other things.

Llanwern is also home to Tata Steel UK’s commercial team.

Q: How has the site developed since its Tata takeover?

A: The site has changed little physically since 2007, although there have been significant investments in the Zodiac line, enabling it to increase volumes and produce an alternative high corrosion resistant product called MagiZinc.

South Wales Argus: Hard at work in Llanwern's Zodiac lineHard at work in Llanwern's Zodiac line (Image: Tata Steel)

Amongst other things, MagiZinc is used for structures for solar farms. Tata also invested in a specialist Automotive Finishing Line to improve our service offering to automotive customers.

Q: How is Llanwern different from the Port Talbot site?

A: Port Talbot is an integrated steelworks, making liquid iron and steel, turning it into hot rolled coil that is the common product for all other Tata Steel UK sites.

Q: What is the size and capacity of Llanwern in comparison to other sites?

A: Llanwern produces around 600,000 tonnes of finished product each year. Port Talbot makes about 3 million tonnes of coil each year. Llanwern is one of its biggest customers along with Trostre, in Llanelli, which makes steels for packaging.

Q: How does Llanwern fit into the UK’s wider steelmaking abilities?

The automotive sector is strategic for Tata Steel in the UK – most if not all car makers in the UK use steel from Llanwern. It is the only Tata Steel UK site with the highest quality automotive grade galvanised steel capability.

South Wales Argus: Automotive finishing line at LlanwernAutomotive finishing line at Llanwern (Image: Tata Steel)

Q: How does Llanwern fit into Tata’s global strategy?

The site is part of Tata Steel UK, which continues to be play key strategic role in Tata Steel Group’s global ambitions. This is further reinforced by the recent R&D collaborations announced with University of Manchester and Imperial College in London.

• In December 2023, Tata Steel signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with The University of Manchester to set up a Centre for Innovation in Advanced Materials, and another with Imperial College London to set up a Centre for Innovation in Sustainable Design and Manufacturing in London. These will each involve an investment of £10 million over four years.