This story by Allen Best appeared on his Big Pivots website on September 3, 2022.

The owners of Evraz have announced that they want to sell their North American properties, including the Rocky Mountain steel mill in Pueblo. Part of the deal is what may yet be the largest solar project east of the Rockies, the 348-megawatt Bighorn project.

The company also has scrap metal recycling facilities, including one along the banks of the South Platte River north of downtown Denver in the Globeville area.

The future of the Pueblo steel mill has been the subject of speculation since February, when Russia invaded Ukraine. The Russians own the majority of the steel, coal mining and vanadium businesses listed in London. The majority of the company’s business takes place in Russia, but it does business in the United States and three other countries.

Roman Abramovich, who has been affiliated with Vladimir Putin, is the largest shareholder, with 28.6% of the shares in the $13 billion company. North American operations are responsible for $2.36 billion in revenue.

Of that total, North American rail component revenues were $392 million in 2021, according to rail industry consultant Bob Cantwell, quoted in The age of the railroad. Most of this revenue comes from the supply of rails, with a small percentage of wheels. Evraz enjoys a 48% steel rail market share in North America from its Pueblo plant.

To maintain and even expand its market share, the company has set out to build a $500 million factory that will produce half-mile-long tracks, as demanded by the American railroad giants. Sources told the Chief Pueblo that the long rail plant is 35% complete and is expected to start production by the end of 2023.

The Bighorn Solar Project was assembled on land owned by Rocky Mountain Steel, which is owned by Evraz. Photo/Allen Best

The new plant will be powered primarily by the solar collectors scattered across the steel mill property, even adjoining the Comanche coal-fired power station. That deal was announced in September 2019, although details with Xcel Energy and other corporate partners have taken some time to work out.

In Pueblo, city leaders expressed confidence in talks with the clan leader that the sale will not impede the progress of the city.

“The steel mill here in Pueblo has been owned by multiple owners throughout its existence, but whoever owns it in the future will have a tremendous asset as the first steel mill in North America,” said Pueblo Mayor, Nick Gradisar, in a statement.

Jeff Shaw, president of Pueblo Economic Development Corp., said he wasn’t surprised at the potential sale given the geopolitical tensions, but said he was confident Pueblo wouldn’t be hurt.

Evraz himself was rocked hard by his ties to Russian aggression. Along with the European Union, the British government sanctioned Abramovich. The latter provided this assertion: “Evraz is or has been involved in the provision of financial services, or the provision of funds, economic resources, goods or technologies which could contribute to destabilizing Ukraine or to undermining or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine – potentially including supplying steel to the Russian military that may have been used in tank production.

In an essay published in April in Looking for Alpha Under the title “The Strange Case of Roman Abramovich and Evraz”, Petar Mirkovic painted a comprehensive portrait of the company. He described it as a “sustainable, well-structured, low-leverage, fresh-cash-flow dividend machine” that was also a highly speculative investment.

The boring slot, however, was turned upside down by the invasion of Ukraine and the global response. Beautiful dividends were dampened and share prices fell dramatically.

Abramovich – who also has ties to Aspen, including owning a mansion there – was spared the US government because President Joe Biden was persuaded by Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky that Abramovich might be in able to help broker a peace. Of course, he didn’t.

Seen from London, Bloomberg in August reported that his empire was crumbling there in response to the bite of sanctions. from Bloomsberg The Wealth Index found Abramovich’s net worth had fallen to $10.7 billion, down 40.5% this year.

As for Evraz, the company’s shares had fallen 87% this year before being frozen shortly after Abramovich was put on the government list. He moved two of his yachts to Turkish waters after the invasion to avoid possible seizing of assets in Europe. One of his yachts is 533 feet long, a world record when delivered in 2010.

Denver-based Pivot Energy has agreed to provide 1.45 megawatts of community solar power to Continuum Partners for a hotel, offices, retail and underground parking south at 16th and Wewatta in downtown Denver.

System costs and the lack of viable rooftop space are often among the biggest barriers to adoption of solar energy. The Pivot Energy Community Solar Subscription presents an opportunity for Continuum to offer its commercial tenants the benefits of low-cost renewable energy without having to install a single solar panel on the property.

Continuum integrated 1.7 megawatts of solar power into Belmar, the Lakewood mixed-use property it developed, the largest commercial array in the United States at the time.

“As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we have been reinvigorated in our goal to integrate renewable energy and other green initiatives into our projects,” said Mark Falcone, CEO of Continuum.

allen best

allen best

Allen Best publishes the electronic journal Big Pivots, which chronicles the energy transition in Colorado and beyond.