A Report Points Out That the Cuban Electricity System Cannot Tolerate the Power That Antillana De Acero Requires

Ramiro Valdés and Dmitri Chernishenko inaugurated the new José Martí steel plant yesterday, after a total remodeling of Antillana de Acero. (Ismael Francisco/ Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 19 May 2023 — A huge portrait of José Martí watched this Thursday as the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko and his Cuban counterpart Ramiro Valdés cut the tape of the new steel company that bears his name and that will replace the old Antillana de Acero. Russian technology replaces the Soviet one, without having solved the problem of the enormous energy consumption of this type of facility in a country that lives to the rhythm of blackouts.

The change seems appropriate, barely anything of the Antillana mill is left. Ninety percent of the equipment is Russian or carries technology from that country, which has invested more than 95 million dollars, according to the Sputnik agency, which does not hesitate to cite the amount in U.S. currency despite the fact that one of the great agreements signed yesterday between Havana and its new preferred partner is, Chernishenko said, “to move towards projects that provide for payment in rubles.”

Among its rain of gifts, Moscow promised yesterday a contract for the supply of 14,500 lights that will illuminate the streets of Havana, but the atmosphere in the steel mill was dim during the event despite the fact that the plant had to be celebrated, because, according to the parties, it will employ more than 500 people and produce between 220,000 and 230,000 tons of liquid steel annually. It has not been explained, however, where the energy necessary for a production like this will come from at a time when the closures of industries and companies have been constant due to the lack of fuel, leaving even the garbage uncollected.

According to a study published in January 2020 by experts from the Higher Polytechnic Institute of Havana, the high power demand of the Antillana de Acero electric arc furnace “cannot be tolerated” by the National Electrical System and “produces dangerous oscillations,” which forces the steel mill to “work in a staggered manner.”

“The modernization and expansion of the steel company José Martí [Antillana de Acero] has been a priority initiative within the framework of bilateral cooperation. It is the first large-scale project to be put into the Cuban steel industry in the last 25 years,” the Russian Deputy Prime Minister said at the ceremony.

It was Vadin Nicolayevich, general director of LLC Industrial Engineering (the Russian part of the company) who noted that, in reality, the steel industry already has the country in its DNA. “It was a challenge, because the Antillana was deeply modernized by the Soviet Union between the 1960s and 1990s, but many of those companies no longer exist or had lost their abilities. This made us rethink and obtain modern equipment with better technology to revive the lost competitiveness and manufacture equipment with a high level of quality,” he explained to the media.

In his calculations, the volume of material that Russia has supplied reaches 9,000 tons.

The steel mill is one more part, although the fundamental one, of the entire steel company. Reinier Guillén Otero, director of Antillana de Acero, explained that it has been possible to repair the treatment plant, the loading ship, the electric arc furnace, the bucket oven, the continuous emptying machine, and the finished product warehouse, as well as all the electrical part, all the hydraulic part, all the automatic part and the water treatment received by the Electric Steel Mill. All this from a Russian credit that was announced in 2017 and that had an initial amount of 111 million dollars.

More than 20 Russian companies have participated in the process, Nicolayevich added, a number which grows to 60 if you count those involved in the entire production chain.

In any case, the plant will not be fully operational until 2024, according to the Cuban Minister of Industries, Eloy Álvarez Martínez, who signed the agreement that gives continuity to the project.

Carbon steel nozzles will be produced in the steel mill, which “are used to laminate and obtain corrugated bars, popularly known as rods,” explained Omar Ramón Reyes Ricardo, director of the UEB Acería Eléctrica. The manager added that in April the machinery for the testing process and the correction of errors was launched.

“We will begin the production of steel blades, and with this we will be able to achieve important economic impacts for the company and the country, in addition to replacing imports,” said Álvarez Martínez, satisfied.

Chernishenko did not hesitate to resort to the symbolism of the project, which gives continuity to the cooperation of the Soviet era. “Today is a very important day,” he summarized in his speech, where he recalled the 25,000 tons of wheat sent to the Island, announced the street lights for the capital and advanced the participation of a Cuban team in a new Russian invention: the games of the future.

The event will take place between February 23 and March 2, 2024 in Kazan and will feature “16 hybrid disciplines,” which will combine cybersports and classic sports, video game tournaments, virtual and augmented reality, and traditional soccer, basketball, hockey and mixed martial arts games on the same platform.

The exotic tournament was announced by Vladimir Putin in April, who said that “a modern person, a person of the future, is a harmonious person, developed both physically and intellectually,” adding that these games, in which 2,000 athletes from about 100 countries will participate, “will reveal this truth in its entirety.”

The Cuban participation took place during the signing of a sports agreement between the two countries, which also includes the presence of athletes from the Island in the International University Sports Festival and the “Good Will Cup,” in addition to other sports competitions.

Before concluding Chernishenko’s visit this Friday, a meeting is scheduled with Miguel Díaz-Canel, who yesterday was still immersed in his tour of the Island for the supervision of (the poor) agricultural production and gave an interview to the official media to talk about the “ability to face adversity” of the Cuban people, to whom he announced improvements for September without explaining what they were.

Before the Russian delegation leaves the Island, new agreements could still be announced in this incessant daily trickle that proves correct those who predicted a transfer of Cuban sovereignty to the Russian regime, which has almost completely lost the European market due to the sanctions after its invasion of Ukraine and is looking for new partners in Latin America and Africa.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


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