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COVID-PROOF COKEMAKING

COVID-19 and US STEELMAKING

COVID-19 and EUROPEAN STEELMAKING

COVID-19 IN THE NEWS

We look at how man-less coke ovens might help.

There are other concerns too, argues Manik Mehta in USA Update.

An unprecedented crisis, says EUROFER’s Alessandro Sciarmarelli.

Weakening demand means cuts in production and life on hold for steel.

Since 1866

www.steeltimesint.com May/June 2020 - Vol.44 No4

STEEL TIMES INTERNATIONAL – May/June 2020– Vol.44 No4

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19/05/2020 09:25:31


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CONTENTS – MAY/JUNE 2020

COVID-PROOF COKEMAKING

COVID-19 in US STEELMAKING

COVID-19 & EUROPEAN STEEL

COVID-19 IN THE NEWS

We look at how man-less coke ovens might help.

There are other concerns too, argues Manik Mehta in USA Update.

An unprecedented crisis, says EUROFER’s Alessandro Sciarmarelli

Weakening demand means cuts in production and life on hold for steel.

Since 1866

www.steeltimesint.com May/June 2020 - Vol.44 No4

Front cover photo courtesy of Danieli Automation STEEL TIMES INTERNATIONAL – May/June 2020– Vol.44 No4

Danieli Automation Q-HEAT induction heater in operation during endless production mode in the DUE (Danieli Universal Endless) plant, at Shougang Jingtang United I&S, China

2 Leader By Matthew Moggridge, editor, Steel Times International 4 News round-up The latest global news

18/05/2020 14:09:28

EDITORIAL Editor Matthew Moggridge Tel: +44 (0) 1737 855151 matthewmoggridge@quartzltd.com Consultant Editor Dr. Tim Smith PhD, CEng, MIM Production Editor Annie Baker Advertisement Production Martin Lawrence SALES International Sales Manager Paul Rossage paulrossage@quartzltd.com Tel: +44 (0) 1737 855116 Sales Director Ken Clark kenclark@quartzltd.com Tel: +44 (0) 1737 855117

8 USA update COVID-19 is not the only concern

Chief Executive Officer Steve Diprose SUBSCRIPTION Elizabeth Barford Tel +44 (0) 1737 855028 Fax +44 (0) 1737 855034 Email subscriptions@quartzltd.com

28 Environment Sustainability in action 32 Industry 4.0 and steelmaking Blast furnace 4.0

10 Latin America update COVID-19’s impact on Latin American steel

38 Automated cokemaking Safer cokemaking

12 Iron ore Dry processing for quality ore

42 Automotive Prepare for the future today

14 Europe update An unprecedented crisis

Managing Director Tony Crinion tonycrinion@quartzltd.com Tel: +44 (0) 1737 855164

22 Structural steel It’s not going to be easy 25 Process Control Condition monitoring – the next level

SUSTAINABILITY IN ACTION AT OUTOKUMPU STI Cover.indd 1

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18 Innovations The latest contracts and new products from international plant builders and suppliers

46 Perspectives Q&A: Clayton Engineering Zero-emissions solutions 48 History Merthyr Tydfil – UK’s iron metropolis

Steel Times International is published eight times a year and is available on subscription. Annual subscription: UK £195.00 Other countries: £270.00 2 years subscription: UK £350.00 Other countries: £485.00 ) Single copy (inc postage): £45.00 Email: steel@quartzltd.com Published by: Quartz Business Media Ltd, Quartz House, 20 Clarendon Road, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 1QX, England.

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Tel: +44 (0)1737 855000 Fax: +44 (0)1737 855034 www.steeltimesint.com

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Steel Times International (USPS No: 020-958) is published monthly except Feb, May, July, Dec by Quartz Business Media Ltd and distributed in the US by DSW, 75 Aberdeen Road, Emigsville, PA 17318-0437. Periodicals postage paid at Emigsville, PA. POSTMASTER send address changes to Steel Times International c/o PO Box 437, Emigsville, PA 17318-0437. Printed in England by: Pensord, Tram Road, Pontlanfraith, Blackwood, Gwent NP12 2YA, UK ©Quartz Business Media Ltd 2020

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ISSN0143-7798

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18/05/2020 14:14:38


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LEADER

Men go and come, but earth abides...Ecclesiastes, 1,4

Matthew Moggridge Editor matthewmoggridge@quartzltd.com

I’ve never seen Contagion and I don’t intend to watch it now, purely because I’m living it, like most people on the planet. However, this morning, on a level so miniscule it’s probably not worth talking about, I started to think about how civilisation can slowly vanish, if we’re not careful, and there are signs of this everywhere at present. My tiny little example is that my lawnmower gave up the ghost over the weekend and there’s nobody around to fix it, meaning that my lawn will grow uncontrollably until I get it fixed or buy a new one. Currently, as I look out on the garden, it’s as if the grass has been given a radical haircut, but if weeks or months go by, it’ll start looking like a jungle out there. There is a great book, Earth Abides, by George R Stewart, published in 1949 and based on a mysterious plague destroying the vast majority of the human race and how, slowly, the modern world ceases to be and people start to live a simpler form of life. It’s both intriguing and depressing and hopefully it’s a situation we can avoid in future. With a bit of luck, those in charge will learn some valuable lessons from COVID-19 and the world won’t

find itself in such dire straits again. In the meantime, we’ve got to crack on until things return to some level of normality, although the word on the street is that ‘normal living’ won’t be any time soon. As avid readers will no doubt be aware, stories about steelmaking and COVID-19 are, quite understandably, dominating this magazine (and the world’s media). Steelmakers are cutting their cloth accordingly, in line with reduced demand for steel from key end-user industries, such as automotive and construction, and now the focus is beginning to shift from ‘battening down the hatches’ to looking ahead and how to get the industry back on its feet again. In the USA, the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) and other members of the Steel Industry Coalition, are urging Congress to invest in American-made infrastructure. According to the SMA, investment in infrastructure – buildings, bridges and transportation – is the key to jump-starting the North American economy and it will certainly help the US structural steel industry get back on its feet; but, as Myra Pinkham points out in this issue, it’s not going to be easy.

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21/04/2020 15:51:25


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NEWS ROUND-UP

• As demand for steel from the automotive sector and other industries drops as a result of COVID-19, Tata Steel Europe has announced production cuts at its mills in Ijmuiden in the Netherlands and at Port Talbot in South Wales, UK. The company states that all four of its blast furnaces will continue, but production of liquid steel will be reduced. Source: Nasdaq, 26 March 2020.

• In Iran, the so-called ‘resistance economy’ is hard at work trying to create new jobs. The Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organisation (IMIDRO) is reviving small and mediumsized mines with a view to creating 3,000 jobs. Since March 2019, IMIDRO claims that it is 95% on target now. The aim is to revive 150 idled mines, with small mines a top priority. Iran is in 10th place globally in terms of the diversity of its mineral reserves. Source: IMIDRO, 25 March 2020.

• State-owned steelmaker The Steel Authority of India (SAIL) has claimed that it has rationalised operations at all domestic sites and that run rates have been cut by 30% as a result of India’s COVID-19related 21-day lockdown. The company produced 1.44Mt of crude steel in February, but a 30% cut in run rates means a loss of over 400kt/month of production. Source: Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide, 28 March 2020.

• Indian steelmaker JSW has also cut domestic production because of COVID-19. The 18Mt/yr business has shut down one blast furnace at its plant in Vijaynagar, Karnataka and reduced run rates initially by 50% and then by 25-30% at three other furnaces. In February JSW produced 1.49Mt of crude steel. A 30% reduction means a loss of around 450kt/month. Source: Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide, 28 March 2020.

• A report by Argus Media claims that US Steel’s raw steel production fell almost 10% for the week ended 28 March 2020 because of the Corona virus. Output dropped 182kt (short tons) to 1.67Mt and fell 13% when compared with the same week in 2019. Capacity utilisation was 71.6%, down from 79.4% the previous week. These figures

are claimed to be the lowest since January 2017. Source: Argus Media, 30 March 2020.

• In China, Shagang Iron and Steel’s 2019 financial results show plummeting operating revenue and net profits. The company’s operating revenue of $1.9 billion and net profit of $74.7 million was down 8.41% and 55.7% respectively. Finished steel prices were down 7.26% while raw materials prices were up just over 11%.

Source: Steel Orbis, 31 March 2020.

• Expansion plans designed to increase both efficiency and sustainability at US Steel’s Mon Valley works have been put on hold because of the Corona virus. The company had planned to ‘break ground’ on an endless casting and rolling line and a cogeneration facility. The situation is likely to remain on hold until market conditions ‘become more certain’ according to US Steel’s president and CEO, David Burritt. Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1 April 2020.

• Russia's largest steelmaker, NLMK Group has requested that all employees over the age of 65 stay at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the company, employees 'of an advanced age' are being given the choice of working from home or taking a paid vacation or quarantine leave until 30 April 2020. The end date could change, based on how the situation develops. Source: NLMK, 1 April 2020.

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5 • Five major North American steel industry groups have urged Congress to include significant infrastructure investment in the next phase of COVID-19 stimulus legislation to provide a clear path toward recovery. The letter, written by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA), The Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports (CPTI), and Specialty Steel Industry of North America (SSINA), stated that 38% of America’s 616,000 bridges are in need of replacement or rehabilitation, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory. Source: SMA, 2 April 2020.

• ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker, has joined forces with leading researchers and medical professionals in Spain to produce ventilators to help tackle the global COVID-19 crisis. The ventilators, produced using 3D printers, took one week to design and are currently undergoing

trials and safety tests. Once approved, they could support patients with acute respiratory difficulties, which occur in severe cases of coronavirus. Source: ArcelorMittal, 7 April 2020.

• Nippon Steel Corporation (NSC) has lowered the tapping ratio of its blast furnaces, extended the time between blasting, and has taken other measures to reduce overall steel output volume in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Japanese steelmaker has also initiated additional measures in response to a sharp drop in demand for steel products and these include the banking of blast furnace number one at its East Nippon Works in the Kashima area. Source: Nippon Steel Corporation, 7 April 2020.

• Indian steelmakers keen to turn the country into a 300Mt/ yr heavy metal powerhouse are having their efforts thwarted by the Coronavirus, according to one online report. As many steelmakers cut back production by up to 50%, some experts argue that the virus will take its toll on any expansion plans designed to make India the number two player next to China. In fact, plans could be pushed back by between three and nine months, according to analyst Akash Krishnatry from India Ratings. Source: Financial Express, 8 April 2020.

• Following the conclusion of negotiations between SSAB Group and the company's employees in Finland, the Swedish steelmaker has decided there will be a need for temporary lay-offs averaging three weeks between April and June 2020. The lay-offs are in response to weakened market conditions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: SSAB, 7 April 2020.

• The World Steel Association (worldsteel) has rescheduled its Steel Safety Day from 28 April (aligned with the International Labour Organisation’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work) to 21 October in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 at steel-producing sites.

According to Andrew Purvis, worldsteel's director, safety, health and environment, It is important to say that this is not because safety or frequent interactions with employees and contractors about safety are less necessary now than before the pandemic.

• ArcelorMittal Bremen has commissioned AI company Smart Steel Technologies to introduce its “SST Casting Optimisation AI” and “SST Surface Inspection AI” software products. According to SST, these AI solutions serve to optimise the continuous casting process and automated surface inspection. ArcelorMittal Bremen will permanently reduce downgradings due to surface defects, and will install a system for AI-supported analysis of production data to implement effective further optimisation measures. Source: SST, 7 April 2020.

Source: World Steel Association, 6 April 2020.

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• Global production of molybdenum rose by 575.4 million pounds in 2019, up 1% from 571.5 million pounds in 2018, according to figures released today by the International Molybdenum Association (IMOA), a nonprofit trade association representing the interests of the world's molybdenum producers, converters, consumers and traders. Global use was 569.6 million pounds in 2019, a fall of 2% from 583.2 million pounds the previous year. Source: IMOA, April 20 2020.

• Liberty Steel Hartlepool has secured contracts to build more than 470 km of pipe for use in offshore and onshore energy infrastructure projects in the United States and Caspian Sea regions. The orders, which are claimed to be 'of significant value', will be fulfilled at Liberty’s Longitudinally Submerged Arc Welded Linepipe mill where production has commenced and will continue for the next 10-12 months. Source: Liberty Steel, 20 April 2020.

NEWS ROUND-UP • The Materials Processing Institute has appointed Professor John Fernie as head of the Materials Processing Institute's recently formed Advanced Materials Group. Professor Fernie has more than 30 years’ experience of managing research and development teams, including creating and implementing technology strategies and securing grant-based and commercial funding from the UK, EU and the rest of the world. Source: Materials Processing Institute, 20 April 2020.

• Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel Corporation is lowering the tapping ratio of its blast furnaces, extending the time between blasting, and taking other measures to reduce overall steel output volume in response to the adverse effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Source: Nippon Steel Corporation, 22 April 2020.

World crude steel production for March 2020 was down 6% on figures for the same time last year, according to data released by the World Steel Association (worldsteel). In March 147.1Mt of crude steel was produced based on data received from the 64 countries that report to worldsteel. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, these figures are estimates from national and regional associations and may be revised with next month's update, says worldsteel. Source: World Steel Association, 23 April 2020.

• A report by the BBC claims that Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock believes that Tata Steel in the UK will need around £500 million of government support in order to survive the global COVID-19 pandemic. The BBC report claims that Sky News has reported that Tata Steel, which employs over 8,000 people in the UK, is asking for support because many of its customers have halted production because of the COVID-19 crisis. Both the UK and Welsh Governments have been approached. Source: BBC, 26 April 2020.

• ArcelorMittal has furloughed 250 employees at its plant in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. The company says that its customers – largely in the automotive and construction industries – have closed down plants due to COVID-19 and that this has affected work at the plant. The furloughs are not expected to last more than six months. The world’s biggest steelmaker will be idling production at its Hibbing Taconite iron ore mine and pellet processing plant in Minnesota from 3 May through 6 July. Source: Steel Times International, 27 April 2020.

• Scandinavian steelmaker Ovako and Linde Gas AB have conducted a full-scale trial using hydrogen to heat steel before rolling. The steelmaker claims that the trial was performed with good results in one of the company’s pit furnaces at the Hofors rolling mill in Sweden. "This historic development for the steel industry proves that carbon dioxide emissions from rolling can be eliminated provided the right financial support and infrastructure are in place," Ovako said. Source: Ovako, 28 April 2020.

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19/05/2020 08:21:16


AMAZING FACTS & FIGURES

• Leon Topalian, president and chief executive of Nucor Corporation in the USA, has spoken out about the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that it 'has touched the lives of almost everyone in some way'. "We would be remiss not to acknowledge the physical, mental and emotional toll so much of the world is experiencing," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are fighting COVID-19 and our condolences are with the victims of this terrible virus and the families and friends who mourn them. Source: Nucor Corporation, 28 April 2020.

• Jindal Stainless (Hisar) Limited (JSHL) has been awarded the prestigious ‘International Safety Award 2020 Merit’ by the UKbased British Safety Council. According to JSHL it is the only Indian manufacturing company in the steel and stainless steel industry that has been bestowed with this award among a global pool of over 500 companies from a spectrum of industries. The award honours JSHL’s commitment and overarching performance to ensure global safety standards at the workplace. Source: Jindal Stainless, 4 May 2020.

• 38% of America’s 616,000 bridges are in need of replacement or rehabilitation. Source: Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory

• Despite material substitution threats, steel today remains a key automotive material making up around 55% of light vehicles by weight. Source: Andrew Zoryk, Deloitte.

• US steel production had declined by as much as 12.7%, by end March, on a year-toyear basis. Falling imports also fell sharply in the first two months of this year, though imports made little impact on US steelmakers. Source: Steel Times International

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• Outokumpu uses 90.6% of the steel slag it produces. Recycled content makes up 85% of the company’s worldwide production – the highest proportion of recycled material of any producer on the market. This compares with an average of around 50% for stainless steel producers across Europe and North America, while the global average for steel producers is about 35%. Source: Outokumpu. • Somewhere between 20% and 40% of the cost of steel production is in the energy used. Source: World Steel Association.

• The automotive industry accounts for 25% of US steel demand. Source: Steel Times International

• Finnish steelmaker Outokumpu’s stainless steel products generate as little as one-tenth of the carbon emissions of steel produced in the Asia-Pacific region. Source: Outokumpu.

• Advanced High Strength Steels (AHSS) have contributed to reducing weight by around 25% in many components – helping to ensure competitiveness against other substitution threats, such as aluminium. Source: Deloitte.

• Over the next five years, mining giant Vale estimates that it will invest US$3.1 billion in dry processing facilities to achieve its goal of 70% dry production. Source: Michael Schwartz in Steel Times International May/June 2020

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USA UPDATE

COVID-19 is not the only concern Steel has been declared an ‘essential’ industry in the USA, writes Manik Mehta*

AS COVID-19 continues, accompanied by a daily dose of rising numbers of infections and deaths, the US steel industry is going through uncertain times. Indeed, even before the virus struck the US economy with full force, the steel industry was already feeling the pain of declining demand and galloping costs. Indeed, the automobile industry, a major steel consumer, had already begun cutting production resulting in a sharp decline in steel consumption. Other big consumers of steel had also cancelled orders, prompting the steel industry to urge the Trump administration to classify it as an ‘essential’ industry. US steel production had declined by as much as 12.7%, by the end of March, on a year-to-year basis. Falling imports also fell sharply in the first two months of this year,

though imports made little impact on US steelmakers. The mood in the steel industry is not exactly upbeat, to put it mildly. Indeed, many hope that China would return to normalcy so that it could start clearing its piled-up inventories. Another hope is that if China would invest in upgrading its infrastructure, it could strengthen the economic recovery process. While COVID-19 may have exacerbated the problems of the steel industry, it is not just the disease that has caused the disruption. The case of US Steel Corp. illustrates the point. US Steel recently announced that it was idling two of its tubular plants, raising the prospect of some 850 job losses. The company, in a statement, cited “challenging market conditions and high import levels”

as the cause for this step. When President Trump first announced the steel tariffs under Section 232 in 2018, the company restarted two blast furnaces in Granite City, besides resuming the construction of its electric arc furnace in Alabama last year after abandoning it at one point. While Section 232 tariffs did serve a strong fillip to the company’s recovery efforts, US Steel’s hopes faded last year when it announced that it was idling two blast furnaces in the US and one in Europe. Later, in December, the company announced layoffs at its Michigan plant. The layoffs at US Steel’s plants are not related to COVID-19 alone; the company closed down its tubular-producing plants because of the slump in the energy sector which, following a steep decline in crude-oil prices, faced a sharp drop in demand.

* USA correspondent May/June 2020

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18/05/2020 08:35:07


USA UPDATE

Meanwhile, five major steel industry groups urged Congress to allocate substantial investment for infrastructure development in its next phase of COVID-19 stimulus legislation designed for economic revival. The five groups – American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), Steel Manufacturers’ Association (SMA), the Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports (CPTI), and Specialty Steel Industry of North America (SSINA) – made a representation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congress leaders, arguing: “Making a longterm and robust infrastructure investment now will not only respond to the urgent transportation system needs that are well known, but will also create high-paying jobs allowing businesses and families to recover from this extremely difficult economic outlook.” The letter maintained that “38% of America’s 616,000 bridges are in need of replacement or rehabilitation, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory”. The groups concluded that the infrastructure supply chain for steel products used in highway and bridge construction “starts with American steel producers, who have revolutionised the industry by developing clean and efficient steelmaking processes at mills located strategically throughout the country,” noting that steel is sold directly or through national distributors to construction companies and to approximately 1,000 American steel fabricators who have built plants, and created jobs, in virtually every congressional district in America. The nation’s car manufacturers also decided to temporarily close auto plants for cleaning and sanitisation in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Detroit’s “Big-3” car manufacturers closed their plant for sanitisation purposes, but other car manufacturers, such as Honda and Subaru, announced similar plans for their US operations. This move could impact the steel industry. The automotive industry accounts for 25% of US steel demand. Indeed, integrated steel mills such as those along the Lake Michigan lakeshore in Northwest Indiana, which account for more than half of automotive sheet production in the US, would be badly hit by the plant closures, which could create shipment issues and put www.steeltimesint.com

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pressure on prices. US Steel’s CEO David Burritt said that his company continued to monitor the impact of the coronavirus and that they were following policies and procedures recommended by health and government officials to ensure that employees worked in a safe environment. But others, reacting cautiously, were not sure how to handle a potentially steep drop in demand. Coronavirus has also exacerbated the problems of other businesses already hit by Section 232 steel tariffs. Supply chains are being disrupted, forcing many companies to seek government relief assistance. The Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users (CAMMU), for instance, urged the administration to “immediately terminate Section 232 steel and aluminium tariffs to help US manufacturers during this time of unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”. “If immediate termination is not possible, CAMMU urges at least a 90-day pause on tariff collections as small and medium manufacturers struggle with cash flows. Quick and decisive action to mitigate the ongoing economic damage to manufacturers is urgently needed right now.” The issue of suspending tariffs has led to a heated debate between supporters and opponents of tariffs, with some warning that China was ‘simply waiting’ to take advantage of the tariff suspension. Supporters of tariff suspension argue that this would be the easiest way to help businesses and consumers grappling with the problem of rising costs resulting from

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the tariffs. US tariffs on foreign steel, aluminium and other billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese products threaten to chip away profits of companies that rely on imported goods and parts, also hitting, particularly, the low-income earning households. Opponents of tariff suspension, on the other hand, say that China, from its already advantageous position, would invariably exploit the tariff suspension. They point out that factories are gradually limping back to their activity after the virus shutdown, and warn that even suspension of tariffs would enable China to capture an even larger share of global industries and fortify its dominant position for years ahead. Indeed, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, had said in a C-SPAN interview that ‘general tariff relief is not on the table.’ The Trump administration has designated steel and aluminium as ‘essential’ industries. The ‘essential’ classification has enabled Pennsylvania’s governor Tom Wolf to let steel and aluminium mills remain open in his state. The president/CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, Thomas J. Gibson, who wrote to vice president Mike Pence urging him to declare steel an “essential” industry, emphasised that the country’s public health and welfare depended on robust access to critical infrastructure. “It is therefore critical that steel manufacturing facilities and the workers employed by US steel mills be exempt from shelter-in-place and other such requirements,” he wrote. �

May/June 2020

18/05/2020 08:35:23


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LATIN AMERICA UPDATE

COVID-19’s impact on Latin American steel There is no doubt that the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is the most important issue for humanity right now. However, since it generates a high degree of uncertainty on the best public policies, on economic performance and on the very survival of businesses, it is wise to consider that any effort to quantify the overall effects should be understood as a preliminary estimation subject to further adjustment. By Germano Mendes de Paula* Financial market, Coronavirus and GDP The financial market seeks to anticipate the economic performance of businesses. However, according to Professor Harry Mamaysky, from the Columbia Business School, in his paper entitled Financial Markets and News about the Coronavirus, in times of volatility, like now with the COVID-19 pandemic, financial markets can be highly influenced by anxiety reported in the media, even on days when fundamental conditions do not significantly deteriorate. Professor Mamaysky observed that a large fraction of daily market price variation of the asset classes is explained by topical sentiment. He also concluded that “financial markets do not covary contemporaneously with incidence of coronavirus cases, but do forecast future coronavirus cases. The overall picture is of hypersensitive, but largely rational, markets”.

Bearing in mind hypersensitivity, a first important figure refers to GDP evolution. The Economist Intelligence Unit, in a report published on 26 March 2020, claimed that it revised down world growth in 2020 from 2.3% to -2.2% (Table 1). For Brazil, the forecast declined from 2.4% to -5.5%. For Mexico, it modified from 1.1% to -5.4%, while Argentina’s respective numbers were both retractions of 2.0% and 6.7%. Therefore, the revisions were equivalent to 7.9 percentage points (p.p.) to Brazil, 6.5 p.p. to Mexico and 4.7 p.p. to Argentina. According to the leading Brazilian newspaper Valor Econômico, many financial institutions are reviewing their projections for this year’s GDP. However, there is a high dispersion in the projected scenarios. On 9 April, the least pessimistic projection, of a 2% reduction, is from Fitch Ratings. At the other end, JGP Gestão de Recursos, an asset

management organisation, expects the Brazilian economy to shrink 6% this year. In addition, IHS Markit forecasts a retraction of global GDP of 2.8%, against a 4.5% drop in Brazil. Barclays updated its forecast on Mexico on 3 April 2020 Now, it expects that the economy will contract 7.0% in Q2 2020, q/q, with the eventual recovery likely to be gradual. Its annual forecast was diminished from -2.0% to -5.0%. Furthermore, the economy might recover to 1.0% y/y in 2021, as domestic factors could keep investment on the soft side even after this shock has passed. The view of Credit Suisse Credit Suisse published some reports exclusively about the impacts of the new coronavirus on Latin American steelmakers. On 19 March 2020, a report on CSN

* Professor in Economics, Federal University of Uberlândia, Brazil. E-mail: germano@ufu.br * As a disclaimer, it is important to register that the article was completed on 9 April 2020. May/June 2020

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19/05/2020 08:25:09


LATIN AMERICA UPDATE

observed that: “Following recent events related to the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting economic impact around the globe, we are revising our CSN model mainly by (i) incorporating Q419 results; (ii) toning down our flat steel domestic shipment growth forecasts in Brazil to +3% y/y in 2020 (from +4% previously); and (iii) decreasing our price hike expectations for 2020 to +6% y/y (vs. +8% y/y previously)”. As a result, the target price was dropped from R$16/share to R$13/share, or a 19% diminution. On 22 March 2020, a report on Usiminas stressed that: “As we continue to work towards understanding the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Brazil’s economy, we are revisiting our Usiminas model mainly by (i) incorporating Q419 numbers and (ii) reducing our flat steel domestic demand growth forecast in Brazil to -2% y/y in 2020 (from +4%)”. At that moment, it lowered the target price from R$11.5/share to R$9.5/ share, or a 17% retraction. On 2 April 2020, Credit Suisse unveiled a new report on Usiminas, because: “Usiminas sent out a press release this evening (April 2) informing the market that it took the decision to (i) shut down Blast Furnace (BF) 2 of the Ipatinga Plant, from April 4th on, (ii) shut down BF 1 of the Ipatinga Plant from April 22nd on (iii) carry out the interruption of activities of Steelworks 1 of the Ipatinga Plant from the date of the shutdown of BF 2 and (iv) carry out the temporary interruption of activities at the Cubatão Plant. These measures, according to Usiminas, are aimed at adjusting production levels to current demand conditions”. Nonetheless, it maintained its target price of R$9.5/share. On 24 March, Credit Suisse revealed that “Gerdau published a material fact this morning informing the market that its operations in Peru and Argentina have been suspended as a result of government mandated quarantines which at this point are set to last at least until the end of March. Additionally, in the US all operations in the Specialty Steels segment have been suspended for the time being as a result of temporary shutdowns carried out by automakers in the country. In Brazil, the company also mentioned that some operations have been impacted due to the enforcement of restrictions associated with quarantine laws in some states”. Even though, it preserved its target price of R$21/share. www.steeltimesint.com

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shutting down Blast Furnace 2 in Ouro Branco (1.5Mtpa capacity); and (iii) carrying out scheduled shutdowns in mini-mills Argentina -2.0 -6.7 Australia 2.0 -0.4 and rolling facilities in Brazil within the Brazil 2.4 -5.5 specialty steels division. Gerdau’s decision Canada 1.8 -1.3 was motivated by weaker activity in the China 5.9 1.0 industrial and construction sectors due France 1.0 -5.0 Germany 0.9 -6.8 to the COVID-19 outbreak. Blast Furnace India (2020/21FY) 6.0 2.1 1 in Ouro Branco (3Mtpa capacity) will Indonesia 5.1 1.0 continue operating normally. Regarding Italy 0.4 -7.0 the North America division, Gerdau stated Japan 0.4 -1.5 South Korea 2.2 -1.8 that its mills continue to operate normally, Mexico 1.1 -5.4 although its output should be adjusted Russia 1.6 -2.0 gradually throughout this month to cope Saudi Arabia 1.0 -5.0 with the decline in end-use demand. In the South Africa 1.4 -3.0 Turkey 3.8 -3.0 Special Steels division, Gerdau is carrying UK 1.1 -5.0 out scheduled shutdowns in Brazil and USA 1.7 -2.8 the US, also in line with the decrease in World 2.3 -2.2 demand”. However, the bank maintained again its target price of R$21/share. Table 1. Revised growth forecasts for G20 countries in Regarding Ternium, Credit Suisse 2020 (% y-o-y). Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit informed on 26 March that: “We are (March 26th 2020) updating our forecasts for Ternium mainly by: (i) inputting Q419 results; (ii) incorporating a -2% y/y drop in steel prices in Mexico in 2020 (from +2.5% y/y); and (iii) trimming our consolidated steel shipment growth expectations to -5% y/y in 2020 (from flat y/y)”. As a result, it reduced the price target from $22.5/share to $18/ share, implying a 20% drop.

Previous forecast

Current forecast

Credit Suisse unveiled a new report on Gerdau on 5th April 2020, and mentioned that: “On Friday (3 April), Gerdau sent out a press release informing the market that it is carrying out additional operational shutdowns as the company adapts its operational profile to significantly weaker demand conditions ahead. (…) Gerdau is now (i) shutting down several Electric Arc Furnaces and rolling mills within their Brazil division during this month; (ii)

January 2nd

Financial market consensus It’s important to look also at the financial market consensus on target prices. Based on MarketScreener, Table 2 shows target prices for the aforementioned Latin American steelmakers over selected days: 2 January (the first working day of the year), 10 March (the day before the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 as a pandemic) and 9 April (the latest available data). It can be verified that since 10 March, the consensus on price targets has diminished by: CSN and Usiminas (24%), Gerdau (20%) and Ternium (15%). The median value is 22% meaning, under the financial market perspective, these steelmakers have lost more than one fifth of their value, due to the pandemic �

March 10th

April 9th

CSN

R$/share

14.95

15.15

11.46

Gerdau

R$/share

19.22

22.20

17.73

Ternium

$/share

23.59

24.95

21.18

Usiminas

R$/share

9.66

10.53

8.03

Table 2. Consensus on price target, selected dates and companies. Source: MarketScreener (9 April 2020)

May/June 2020

19/05/2020 08:25:11


12

IRON ORE

Dry processing for quality ore

Ivan Montenegro, president of New Steel, has stated that a pilot plant for Fines Dry Magnetic Separation (FDMS) will start operating at the Centro de Tecnologia de Ferrosos (the Ferrous Metals Technology Centre, or CTF), in Nova Lima (Minas Gerais, Brazil) in Q2 of 2020. By Michael Schwartz* VALE acquired the New Steel company for $500 million in 2018; owning patents in 56 countries for its dry processing method known as Fines Dry Magnetic Separation (FDMS), New Steel was identified by Vale as precisely the company to provide the expertise for its drive towards ore of a higher-percentage and greater purity iron, especially when its Chinese customers are demanding a less-polluting product. Key to Vale’s ambitions is its investment of $100 million to construct a plant, which will enable dry magnetic concentration of low-grade iron ore via FDMS in Minas Gerais. Plant capacity is intended to run to 1.5 Mt/yr, with a start-up in 2022. More broadly, Vale estimates that by 2024 70% of production will come from dry or natural moisture processing, without adding water to the process and, crucially, without using tailings dams. This is in contrast to the present situation where 60% of Vale’s iron ore is produced via natural moisture processing. Indeed, by 2024 out of the 30% of production that does employ wet processing, 16% will have filtered and dry-stacked tailings. As a consequence, the present conventional method of wet concentration and tailings disposal in dams or deactivated extraction sites will fall to just 14%. Vale is predicting that it will invest around $1.8 billion in filtering and dry stacking in the coming years. The initial locations will be four Brazilian mines and one complex. Ivan Montenegro, president of New Steel,

has stated that a pilot plant for FDMS will start operating at the Centro de Tecnologia de Ferrosos (the Ferrous Metals Technology Centre, or CTF), in Nova Lima (Minas Gerais) in Q2 of 2020, with investment of around almost $3 million. This pilot unit will be able to concentrate 30 t/hr of dry ore, using magnetic separation technology with rare earth magnets. Consequently, New Steel can deliver a concentrate with iron content up to 68%, enhancing poor-quality ore, which would otherwise only yield content of less than 40%. At present, iron ore concentration is generated by water-based flotation. Under the dry concentration technology developed by New Steel, the tailings will be stacked rather than being held behind dams. The company is already studying methods to use the new-technology tailings as input for the civil construction industry, as well as with other initiatives like, for example, co-products.

The quality of the iron ore as mined at the face immediately influences the amount of work needed for dry processing. For example, at Vale’s key Carajás site iron content is already high (above 65% iron). This means that the material is only crushed and screened by size, a process known as granulometry. The resulting higher-grade ore can in turn be transformed into pellets and a higher value product. Vale’s own research The pilot project at CTF, in Minas Gerais, follows a second carried out by Vale; between 2015 and 2017 a similar plant was successfully operated at Fábrica mine in Minas Gerais. Ivan Montenegro explains that Vale required the successful results in order to evaluate the potential of FDMS. In reality, the technology has undergone testing since 2013, when equipment allowed a concentration of 5 t/hr, rising to 15 t/hr in 2015 and up to 30 t/hr in 2017. To function alongside Vale’s future projects, New Steel is now working on large-capacity magnetic separators producing up to 100 t/hr. Over the next five years, Vale estimates it will invest US$3.1 billion in dry processing facilities to achieve its goal of 70% dry production. As an example, the company cites one key plant, Carajás, where the six remaining plants (out of the original 17) that have not been converted to dry processing will be restructured by 2023. �

* Iron ore corrrespondent May/June 2020

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www.steeltimesint.com

18/05/2020 08:49:20


14

EUROPE UPDATE

The European steel sector is being hit by the COVID-19 outbreak probably more severely than any other steel sector in other world regions. By Alessandro Sciamarelli*

An unprecedented crisis THE current economic recession has come at a time when the sector was already suffering from weak demand and the continued downturn in major steel-using manufacturing sectors that had materialised during 2019 (mostly automotive). In Q3 2019 – the latest quarterly data available – apparent steel consumption fell by 3.1% year-on-year, i.e. the third consecutive drop (-6.7% in Q2). A 5% to 6% fall in apparent consumption across the EU is expected in 2019, whereas the huge COVID-19 disruption is likely to result in a slump of at least 10% in 2020, which could, however, reach 20% if there is an extended shutdown of industrial activity across the EU after Q2 this year. Although the magnitude of the current economic crisis is unprecedented and the length of the economic lockdown unknown, the impact of the outbreak on business activity, output and jobs across all economic sectors is very likely to be much higher than any other previous economic recession (that of 2009, for example), that has hit Western economies over the last 70 years.

The macroeconomic outlook has obviously been hugely impacted by the pandemic, with the worst economic recession in sight for the EU as well as other advanced economies, by far bigger than the long recession of 2009-2012 spurred by the financial crisis. With the number of infected people rising across the continent and partial or full lockdown measures in place in most European countries, the economic impact from the health crisis is going to be massive, with the Eurozone heading for an historically deep recession in H1. Given the extension and escalation of containment measures in many countries, 2020 average GDP growth predictions for the EU by major forecasters have been slashed to a fall of 5.1% (from a 2.2% contraction previously seen). But the unprecedented nature of this crisis means that volatility around any macroeconomic forecast remains extremely high. In the short-term, the COVID-19 crisis is having a massive impact on jobs in the steel sector, with thousands of steelworkers on reduced working or temporary layoffs.

Many companies have or are about to severely cut production, and other significant cuts are imminent or being actively considered. More cuts are likely as demand continues to fall, notably given the shutdown in manufacturing imposed by governments in Italy and Spain that has de facto stopped steel production (with a few exceptions) and steel-using sectors’ activity, automotive at first. There is largescale idling of facilities, with around 5Mt of capacity closed (Fig 1). The COVID-19 outbreak has led to an almost complete stop in production in the automotive sector, which is the second largest steel user, and a corresponding slowdown in construction activity, which is, however, currently exempt from the lockdown by some governments (and also, typically reacts more slowly to changes in the economic landscape, being more resilient). As a result, the EU steel sector these days, works at very low capacity utilisation rates, even lower that those recorded at the time of the financial crisis of 2008-09. The medium-term demand

* Director of economic studies and market analysis, EUROFER (The European Steel Association) May/June 2020

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www.steeltimesint.com

18/05/2020 09:18:05


EUROPE UPDATE

hit created by the pandemic from rising unemployment that is expected to take many months to recover post lockdown, is leading the EU steel industry to an almost unsustainable position which may pose a threat to its own survival. As stated above, the COVID-19 outbreak is a short-term symmetric economic shock (i.e. that has hit all over the EU and is not country-specific) whose dramatic effects must be added to the structural problems that the steel sector was already facing before the onset of the current crisis. Steel demand had been weakening throughout 2019, stemming from subdued manufacturing activity, mostly the downturn in the automotive sector.

Economic and industrial confidence had continued to decline in the EU, as well as industrial production that had shown yearon-year declines at every quarter in major EU manufacturing-led economies. Against this unfavourable background, apparent steel consumption fell by 3.1% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2019, a slight moderation compared to the drop recorded in the second quarter (-6.7%). The ongoing negative trend in steel demand was once again the result of the continued slump in the EU’s manufacturing sector due to weakened exports and investment that has become more pronounced during the second and third quarters of 2019. Latest leading indicators before the COVID-19

Fig 1. Apparent and real steel consumption in the EU, year-on-year growth rates (%)

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outbreak suggested that the downturn in output in manufacturing in the EU (and in major steel-using sectors) had continued in the remainder of 2019 and January 2020, albeit with some signs of stabilisation, before recording a steep fall from February 2020 onwards. No significant rebound was forecast before the second half of 2020 anyhow. (Figs 2,3,4) Business conditions in the manufacturing industry had continued to deteriorate since the peak of the previous cycle, around the end of 2017. This downward trend had become even steeper in the second quarter of 2019, particularly in the automotive industry, and has also continued in the third quarter. The COVID-19 outbreak has

Fig 2. Economic Sentiment Indicator, EU (100=long-term average). Source: European Commission, Business and Consumer Surveys

Note: apparent steel consumption is the volume of steel that is delivered to steel-using sectors (mainly construction, automotive, mechanical engineering and domestic appliances) plus steel imports minus steel exports. Real steel consumption is defined as apparent consumption adjusted by the stock cycle. Source: EUROFER.

Fig 3. Industrial Confidence Indicator (balance of positive and negative answers).

Fig 4. Year-on-year industrial production change, %. Source: Eurostat

Source: ibidem.

www.steeltimesint.com

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May/June 2020

18/05/2020 09:18:07


16

GUNNING ROBOTS

FOR IMPROVED

HOT REPAIR of EAF, Ladle, RH

VELCO GmbH Haberstraße 40 42551 Velbert (Germany) info@velco.de • www.velco.de Tel +49 (20 51) 20 87-0 Eurofer.indd, read OK MM... .indd 3

EUROPE UPDATE

then led the already significant downturn of the manufacturing sector in the EU – that was not likely to bottom out in the very short-term – to a dramatic low. Major risk factors that contribute to explain the downturn in steel-using sectors in the EU during 2019 were escalating trade wars between the US and several of its main trading partners (mostly China) and persistent uncertainty regarding the final Brexit deal to be agreed by the end of 2020, causing a continued deterioration in business sentiment. In this scenario, the EU steel sector would have continued to be severely impacted, also having to cope with growing import distortions as well as persistently high import volatility as a result of the increase in the safeguard quotas and transfer mechanism of unused quarterly quota. After the exceptional drop of 19% year-on-year experienced in the second quarter, third country imports decreased only marginally in the third quarter (by 1%), and amounted to 8.8Mt, accounting for 23.8% of EU steel demand. Monthly data continued to show high volatility. The expected reduction of apparent steel consumption in 2019 of 5% to 6% year-on-year and persisting import pressure is, in essence, expected to mostly penalise EU steel producers in their business performance. As in previous quarters, developments in total imports conceal distortions at the individual product level, which are reflecting the flaws of the current safeguard mechanism, and which have resulted in a rush to maximise quarterly quota allowances by several key exporters to the EU. Market conditions, in the most optimistic scenario – that is an end or at least an effective restart of industrial activity due to the removal of COVID-19-related restrictive measures – are expected to improve slightly from the third quarter of 2020. However, although risks related to import distortions and continued global overcapacity are likely to continue undermining the stability of the EU steel market. Global steel capacity – particularly in countries such as China, India and Turkey – has continued to increase, and the gap between capacity and production has been widening in recent months. The outlook for the global economy will remain in any case uncertain, even after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the same downside risks (global trade tensions, manufacturing weakness in the EU, and even the final Brexit deal), and the EU’s manufacturing sector is likely to keep undergoing a serious downturn, given its large exposure to global trade, even after the end of the pandemic, with a possible rebound in output only in H2 2020/early 2021. In conclusion, the weakness in industrial activity is likely to continue, due to the considerable loss of production capacity experienced by the EU industrial sector as a result of the current crisis. The EU economy, which is largely export-oriented (particularly Germany) still appears to be particularly vulnerable as it is exposed to fluctuations in international trade and abrupt changes in the manufacturing cycle. The steel sector is likely to be severely affected by the unprecedented downturn in manufacturing, particularly automotive, whose outlook was already very uncertain before the outbreak. The effectiveness of the safeguard measures will be another crucial factor, as the eventual rebound in steel demand – once the crisis is over – will probably result in massive imports from third countries which would mostly penalise EU steel producers. �

www.steeltimesint.com

18/05/2020 09:18:11


INNOVATIONS

17

Giving women a firmer footing A new US-based workwear company designed for women in STEM and manufacturing is turning steel-toed footwear on its heel. Developed by an engineer who was tired of having to settle for wearing bulky work boots during her career in manufacturing, Xena Workwear created innovative safety shoes that, it is claimed, don’t compromise on style or safety. “Too often men’s safety boots are sized down and offered to women in stereotypically female colours, but they were not designed for us,” said Xena Founder Anastasia Kraft. “Not having professional-looking footwear made it nearly impossible to dress well and feel confident,” she added. Kraft claims she founded Xena to change the stagnant safety shoe landscape. Women who work in traditionally male-dominated fields, like engineering, manufacturing, and construction, often have a difficult time finding footwear that allows them to put their best foot forward on the job site and in the conference room. Xena’s steel-toe boots are cut specifically for a woman’s foot with an ergonomically lightweight structure that provides enhanced heel and arch support, it

is claimed. “I heard from countless women that they need comfortable safety shoes that look good no matter where they go during the day,” Kraft explained. “And they must also meet the strict requirements of our demanding industries. I went through numerous prototype iterations before landing on the final Gravity model.” Gravity steel-toe shoes are ASTM F2413-18 certified, OSHA compliant, weigh less than three pounds, and are impact, compression, chemical, and oil-resistant. All Xena products are said to be handcrafted in North America with LWG-certified, full-grain leather and feature an odor-eliminating anti-microbial insole. Kraft and her team recently closed on $750,000 in seed funding that will help Xena expand its product portfolio from adding variants of the original Gravity model to introducing an all-new fashionable boot with a lower heel and ankle coverage. Also on the horizon are work blazers outfitted with purposeful compartments where women can store their rings, phones, ear plugs, and safety goggles.

For further information, log on to www.xenaworkwear.com

Enhanced aftermarket service capabilities Brokk, a leading manufacturer of remote-controlled demolition machines, has enhanced its aftermarket service capabilities, including machine refurbishment and repair, with a new demonstration and service centre in St. Joseph, Missouri. The 10,000-square-foot centre reduces lead times on repair and refurbishment services, allowing the manufacturer to support customers’ existing product lines. According to Brokk, customers can re-purpose older Brokk machines with complete overhaul options, increasing fleet value and maximising inventory flexibility with a blend of Brokk equipment for their operation. A team of technicians with more than 60 years of combined experience offers expert service and increased convenience for Brokk customers across the USA and Canada. “How you support customers after a sale is what sets manufacturers apart,” said Lars Lindgren, president of Brokk Inc. “Whether it’s unexpected downtime or routine maintenance, we understand fast, convenient service options are vital to our customers’ success. To best support our customers, we’ve gathered the people and tools they need all in one centralised location.” The St. Joseph facility includes a full-service shop with wash bay, workshop and welding station. A staff of four full-time technicians provides an array of service options from routine maintenance to repairs and refurbishments. The demonstration and service centre houses an extensive inventory of Brokk machines, attachments and parts, as well as a number of hydro-demolition robots and products for sister company, Aquajet.

The demolition and service centre also offers certified refurbishment for older Brokk and Aquajet models. The refurbishment process starts with a thorough inspection and analysis of all critical components including hoses, hammer seals, outrigger pads and arm bearings. From there, technicians and owners can walk through the various upgrades to match machine capabilities to operational needs. General service takes approximately one to two weeks, depending on whether parts replacement is needed. Machines that require extensive repairs take three to four weeks to be jobsite ready. Refurbishment timelines vary based on the extent of upgrades and if parts need to

be custom-ordered for older models, such as the Brokk 150 or 250. Brokk arranges transportation to and from the centre and, when necessary, provides replacement equipment from the Brokk service fleet. The service team welcomes customer mechanics to accompany equipment and assist in repair or refurbishment, creating a valuable opportunity for customers to learn more about care and maintenance of their machines. Replacement parts are backed by a 12-month warranty. For further information, log on to www.brokkinc.com

May/June 2020

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19/05/2020 07:59:23


18

INNOVATIONS

Focus on safety at Konecranes When Konecranes launched its Lifetime Advantage late last year, it concentrated on the theme of safety, but now the focus is firmly on customer productivity with a second package containing specific solutions that can be retrofitted to the company’s equipment on-site. According to Konecranes these are not service packages, but are intended to improve equipment performance. “Although safety is our highest priority, it was only the first package of solutions to upgrade everything from an individual truck to a whole customer fleet,” says Johan Kårhammer, global spare parts operations manager at Konecranes Lift Trucks. “We are now ready to release the second upgrade, and its main goal is improving our customers’ productivity.” The package consists of four productivity upgrades, developed to increase the uptime of each customer’s trucks and extend the life cycle of as many components as possible. In these new solutions, there are two examples of how Konecranes is helping customers avoid waste: Tyre Saver aims to reduce wear and rubber consumption, while the Hydraulic Long-Life Filter extends the life of hydraulic oil up to 12,000 working hours. Less waste also means more cost savings. The two other productivity solutions reduce the number of unexpected service breaks, which always increase downtime and cause expensive delays. The Spreader Kit 5000 helps avoid accidents caused by twistlock fatigue and reduces the repair time for spreader wear pads. With the right replacements ready when needed, downtime is minimised, it is claimed. In addition, the MD4 Control System update replaces the MDL2 electronic control system, which is no longer available, with the state-of-the-art MD4. It’s the same hardware Konecranes installs on all of its new lift trucks. As with the first upgrade package, the Konecranes global distributor network will play an important role in bringing the second phase of Lifetime Advantage commitment to an ever-changing world. “After the successful launch of our first upgrade package, I’m very excited to see the second package come on to the market,” says Patrik

For further information, log on to www.konecranes.com

Lundbäck, director and head of sales and distribution at Konecranes Lift Trucks. “The Konecranes Lifetime Advantage is enhancing service in new

ways, but ultimately, it comes back to supporting our customers by improving their uptime and maximising the lifecycle of their lift trucks.”

Olympus introduces Vanta Element-S analyser The recently introduced Vanta Element-S from Olympus is claimed to save on time and costs. The handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyser delivers fast light element detection at an affordable price, the company says, and is part of a family of entry-level Vanta Element XRF instruments. The new S model is equipped with a silicon drift detector (SDD) to analyse light elements like magnesium (Mg), aluminium (Al), silicon (Si), sulfur (S) and phosphorus (P) in alloys. May/June 2020

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According to Olympus, the new equipment is ideal for scrap recycling, basic PMI, metal manufacturing and precious metals as it measures ferrous metals, aluminium, copper, stainless steel, nickel and gold karats. The analyser offers on-screen grade ID and comparison for the light elements Mg, Al and Si in seconds. Its SDD detector can distinguish similar alloy grades, like 303 stainless steel from 304. For greater uptime and reliability, Olympus

claims that its analysers are IP54-rated to resist dust and moisture and built to pass a 1.2 m (4foot) drop test (MIL-STD-810G) to protect from the occasional drop or jostle. Other protective features include a stainless-steel faceplate and a Prolene® window with Kapton® mesh support that sticks on and peels off for toolless window changes in the field. The analysers continuously perform in temperatures ranging from 10 °C to 45 °C (14 °F to 113 °F). www.steeltimesint.com

19/05/2020 07:59:28


INNOVATIONS

19

High-performance Aristo welding systems

Olympus claims that its Vanta Element-S analysers come with the essential features the Vanta™ series is known for: speed, reliability, ruggedness, connectivity and smartphone-like ease-of-use. Weighing 2.9 lb. (1.32 kg), it is said to be ‘up to the challenge of all-day testing for alloy and metal analysis’ and offers the same high-count rate and stability as the rest of the Vanta series. Optional wireless connectivity future-proofs for www.steeltimesint.com

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The Aristo 500ix inverter-based welding power source and Robust Feed Pulse and Robust Feed U6 wire feed systems have been introduced to the market by ESAB Welding & Cutting Products. According to ESAB, the Aristo 500ix provides outputs for MIG/MAG, flux-cored, MMA and TIG welding and offers maximum output of 500A/39V at 60% duty cycle and a 100% duty cycle rating at 400A/39V. The company claims that when paired with Robust Feed Pulse or U6, users can weld with solid wire up to 2mm and cored wire up to 2.4mm. “These feeders offer a 50mm dinse terminal on the back for connecting an MMA electrode holder, while the Robust Feed U6 also enables gouging from the wire feeder. Arne Lagerkvist, global product manager, heavy industry welding equipment, at ESAB, says that many fabricators want the benefits of pulsed MIG welding and advanced wire control, but hesitate because of harsh welding conditions. “The Aristo 500ix and Robust Feed system puts those fears to rest. They are fiercely tested and ready for any job site where fabricators want to reach the next level of productivity improvements or help less experienced welders produce better results,” Lagerkvist said.

ESAB claims that the Aristo 500ix’s cooling design isolates electronics from contaminants and that its thick, double bent metal side panels provide impact protection while enabling easy access for service and maintenance. It has crane-rated handles and an optional trolley featuring dedicated crane lifting points as well as a torch holder and large cable holders. The Robust Feed Pulse and Robust Feed U6 are IP44-rated to protect against dirt, mud, splashes and heavy rain. Primary power cables are secured to the back with a twist lock connection to eliminate stress on the positive power terminal and gas connections inside the case. ESAB claims there is no strain or risk from shearing off a cable or hose connection if the feeder is dragged by the cables between the feeder and power source. Condensation is avoided by a heat kit inside the Robust Feed, keeping the wire dry, while heat is managed by a cooling fan for temperatures up to 550 deg C without cooling vents. An optional wheel offers greater operational stability, there are crane-rated lifting options and a digital display that rotates 90 degrees for vertical or horizontal orientation. There are, claims ESAB, many features of the Robust Feed Pulse/U6 that enhance performance including easy-to-find control functions and simplified icons, push buttons and digital displays.

Industry 4.0, while connection to the Olympus Scientific Cloud™ facilitates wireless data sharing, access to fleet management tools, the Olympus mobile app or the user’s own network. There is a 1GB microSD™ card to store results and two USB ports to export data. The analyser is compatible

with accessories like the Vanta field stand, soil foot, probe shield and holster.

For further information, log on to www.esab.co.uk

For further information, log on to www.olympus-ims.com May/June 2020

19/05/2020 07:59:31


20

INNOVATIONS

Shougang orders 6-stand tandem cold mill Late in January 2020, Primetals Technologies received an order from Chinese steelmaker Shougang Qian’an to supply a 6-stand tandem cold mill (TCM) for the company’s Electric Vehicle Steel Co in Qian’an City in Hebei Province. Shougang Qian’an is part of the Shougang Group. In 2018, the group produced 27.4Mmt of steel (metric tonnes). The Hyper UC-mill was recently developed by Primetals Technologies to achieve high performances of strip gauge and flatness control for high strength steel (HSS) rolling. It is also applicable for rolling high grades of non grain-oriented silicon steel and thin products. The technology is based on an optimised roll diameter combination (work, intermediate, and back-up rolls) to employ smaller diameter work rolls for achieving the maximum reduction ratio, and a work roll-driven system to achieve high flatness controllability. The TCM, says Primetals, is designed as a Hyper Universal Crown Control Mill (Hyper UC-mill). This type of mill employs smaller diameter work rolls in order to reduce rolling loads and allow for the production of harder and thinner materials with improved product quality. According to Primetals, all six stands of the Hyper UC-mill are equipped with a work roll shift function, marking its first application to this mill type and enabling precise edge profile control of high-grade electrical steels. Additionally, the mill concept saves investment and maintenance costs and will enable Shougang Qian’an to meet growing demand for electrical steels. Start-up is expected for mid-2022. Primetals Technologies is responsible for engineering and supply of the mill as well as erection supervision and commissioning. The mill type is claimed to be well-suited for cold-rolling harder and thinner materials with high quality and high productivity by utilising smaller work rolls driven

by a work roll drive system. It will produce electrical steel grades, AHSS grades and tin grades in

thicknesses between 0.18mm and 2.5 mm with widths ranging from 750mm to 1,320 mm.

For further information, log on to www.primetals.com

Hoa Phat orders new rolling mill Hoa Phat, Vietnam’s largest steel producer, has ordered a new, 1Mt/yr rolling mill for wire rod, to be installed at its Dung Quat complex. This will be the third rolling mill for long products in Dung Quat – all supplied by Italian plant builder Danieli. The new equipment is fed by 12m-long, 150mm square billets produced by upstream Danieli continuous casting machines, enabling the new mill to produce 5.5- to 25mm diameter wire rod coils, in low-, medium- and high-carbon grades. The rolling line is comprised of a high-speed free-rougher followed by an intermediate mill rolling on two strands. After that, bars continue on two independent rolling lines made of pre-finishing cantilever stands followed by 10-pass wire rod blocks adopting semi-multi-drive technology for improved management of rolling rings and reduced spares inventory. May/June 2020

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Finished product quality is monitored in real time by Hi-Profile measuring devices, while water cooling lines installed before and after (across) the fast finishing blocks, together with 95m-long cooling conveyors provide the desired final mechanical characteristics to the finished products, according to the different sizes and steel grades. Pinch rolls and oil-film bearing laying heads

will guarantee the best coil shape and surface quality, according to Danieli Automation. The Italian plant builder supplied the complete electrical and automation system for the entire line. For further information, log on to www.danieli.com

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19/05/2020 07:59:34


INNOVATIONS

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REDEX Group opens Duisburg technical centre After taking over UNGERER GmbH in 2017, REDEX Group has acquired strategic patents from BWG GmbH enabling it to offer what it claims is the largest portfolio of metal strip processing solutions, from foil to heavy gauge coils. REDEX Group is a 70-year-old family-owned European group with facilities in Europe, USA, China and India. With the aim of developing new technologies and supporting metal strip producers worldwide, REDEX Group has strengthened its R&D capability

with an engineering team based in Duisburg, Germany. Modern production and assembly facilities in France (Ferrieres) and Germany (Pforzheim), as well as service centres in China (Shanghai) and the USA (New-Jersey) allow REDEX Group to offer a full service, from engineering to key equipment through complete strip processing lines, and from automation or measuring and control systems, to spare parts and training. Redex Group’s portfolio of metal strip pro-

cessing solutions includes consulting services, engineering and line modernisation, complete process lines (heat treatment, coating, cleaning), finishing lines (tension leveling, slitting, cut-tolength), in-line flatness measurement and closed loop control systems, as well as key equipment (skin-pass mills, flying shears, stacking units, edge trimmers) and toolings (20-high mill backing assemblies, leveler cassettes and working rolls). For further information, log on to www.redex-group.com

Versatility is the key for Talbert’s new trailer North American heavy-haul solutions provider Talbert Manufacturing has introduced the 35FGBVTL, which is a fixed-neck, drop-deck trailer that is part of the company’s Double Drop Series of products. According to Talbert, the new trailer is rated at 70,000 pounds concentrated into 20 feet and features hydraulic ramps for safe, efficient loading and unloading in confined spaces. Troy Geisler, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing spoke of his customers’ need for a great deal of versatility. “This is why we take the time to listen and design our trailers to provide the most flexibility, tailoring each unit to the specific needs of the customer with options like fixed neck, tag-a-long, hydraulic tail and travelling axle trailers,” he said. The overall length of the 35FG-BVTL is 48 feet, which includes a 22-foot long deck that is 8ft 6in wide and has an 8ft 6-inch rear bridge section. The trailer’s fixed neck provides an alternative to removable gooseneck designs for operators not requiring a front unload option. The 35FGBVTL was designed with an 84-inch swing radius and 18-inch kingpin setting for increased manou-

verability and versatility. The gooseneck features 2-speed landing gear with standard sand shoes. A 36-inch sloping beavertail features a 14.98-degree load angle coupled with full-width plate with traction bars outside the main beams for optimal rear loading. Hydraulic ramps allow for increased safety during loading by removing the need to manually lower or raise the equipment. According to Talbert, the trailer’s recessed cross members in the rear bridge allow for easy positioning of an excavator boom. The deck flooring is 1.5-inch Apitong, which is claimed to provide exceptional strength for long-term durability under heavy loads. The company claims that the 35FG-BVTL has one of the lowest loaded deck heights in the industry ­­­– 30 inches, 40inches for the rear bridge – and 10-inch road clearance to maximise headroom. All Talbert trailers are made with heavy-duty T-1, 100,000-psi minimum yield steel for extreme durability and longevity. The 35FG-BVTL comes standard with Valspar R-Cure 800® paint to prevent corrosion for a long-lasting finish and better return on investment.

For further information, log on to www.talbertmfg.com

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19/05/2020 07:59:38


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STRUCTURAL STEEL

It’s not going to be easy

THERE is speculation that the construction sector could face a long-term transformation with a ‘new normal’ for future project activity. It is, however, very difficult to get a handle on how hard US structural steel producers will be hit, especially given that, according to Tabitha Stine, vice president of market development for the American Institute of Steel Construction, as recently as in early April the mills were still cranking out steel more or less at the same rate as they were before the virus outbreak. She says that wasn’t that surprising given that everything was so fresh. “Just two months prior to that, Covid-19 wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar.” John Anton, associate director of IHS Markit’s pricing and purchasing service, however, questioned whether the structural steel mills were taking the situation seriously enough, believing that if business is able to get back to more “normalcy” in a very short period of time, it would remain in good shape. But, he says, “I believe that they are looking at a hurricane and saying that all they need to do is to use an umbrella,” noting that, at least by early April, US structural steel mills, as well as some other steel long product producers, hadn’t stepped back their output much, at

least not with the same sense of urgency as sheet, particularly auto sheet, producers. “But they will eventually have to do so when, given falling demand, their inventories start building up. They will have no alternative,” Anton says. “Once they do, they will start cutting production hard,” especially if structural steel prices begin falling even more steeply than scrap prices on the back of ‘atrocious’ demand and oversupply. This comes as, according to Scott Hazelton, managing director of IHS Markit’s construction service, spending for nonresidential construction – where most structural steel is consumed – will likely be down 15-20%, or even more, this year, depending upon how long social distancing continues, and that it probably won’t be until 2023, and possibly not until 2025, that non-residential construction spending returns to its 2019 levels. Overall, 2019 had been a pretty decent year for the construction sector, Tyler Kenyon, a metals and mining analyst for Cowen & Co., observes, with overall construction spending up about 4-5%, with the greatest strength coming from the public works sector, including infrastructure construction, which was up about 9%. Private non-residential construction

spending growth was about 3%. Early this year – even before the Covid-19 spread really took hold – it was already widely anticipated that, after a number years of very strong growth rates, US stainless steel consumption would be flat at best and more likely down very slightly in 2020, which isn’t surprising given that approximately 90% of structural steel is used in non-residential building applications. Stine says that as recently as the beginning of March, AISC was estimating that the square footage of nonresidential projects to be built would be down about 1% year-on-year. This is despite the fact that Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, says that construction activity started the year very strong, with February construction employment back to its 2007 peak level and the respondents to an AGC survey conducted at the end of 2019 expressing high levels of optimism for all types of non-residential construction. The story for the structural steel market – even pre-coronavirus, however, was not quite as positive, according to Christopher Plummer, managing director for Metal Strategies Inc., who notes that being an early performer given that it is the first thing

* USA correspondent May/June 2020

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STRUCTURAL STEEL

Every indication is that 2020 – and possibly 2021 as well – will be a very challenging year for the US structural steel market. But just how bad it will be and when things will start turning around again is very difficult to ascertain given that much will depend upon how much of a bite the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will take out of the US economy and how quickly consumer and business confidence will bounce back. Myra Pinkham*

going into construction projects, structural steel consumption was already moderating early in 2020, falling 3.6% year-on-year, right out of the gate in January even though Metal Strategies’ steel-weighted construction index was only down 0.9% year-on-year in January and was actually up 5.5% year-on-year for non-residential construction and up 5.9% for public works, including infrastructure, construction. The steel weighted average for housing, however, was down 3.3% year-on-year in January. Another question is whether even projects that are already under construction will eventually be completed, Alex Carrick, chief economist for ConstructConnect, says, even though the construction industry has been pushing hard to have itself designated as ‘essential’. Every indication is that construction activity will only get worse given the negative impact that we have already seen upon US construction activity, including non-residential construction, as well as upon the overall US economy. Hazelton says that already in the first quarter of 2020 – particularly in March – Covid-19 already had a negative impact upon non-residential construction activity, which declined about 5% during that quarter. He, however, is predicting much greater declines for the rest of the year – about a 14% decline www.steeltimesint.com

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during the second quarter and another 20% decline per quarter for both the third and fourth quarter of the year. This comes amid indications that weekby-week more and more construction projects have been delayed, halted or cancelled, “And I think that the percentages will continue to go up every week for some time,” Simonson says, noting that in AGC’s third weekly survey on the impact of Covid-19 upon the construction industry, which was taken early in April, 55% of respondents (construction project owners) said that one or more of their projects have been impacted, up from 39% making the same assertion in a similar survey during the last week of March. This, he says, is despite the fact that construction has generally been deemed an essential activity and, therefore, isn’t necessarily impacted by orders by certain states and local municipalities to limit or completely cut out construction that isn’t directly related to the pandemic, such as finishing off the construction of a hospital. Simonson says while the respondents to the early April survey indicated that only about the 26% of their projects were delayed, halted or cancelled because of a governmental order to do so, that was up from 18% the previous week and the percentage could keep creeping up given that as of mid-April it seemed that at least

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some of those governmental orders could be extended at least through June, and perhaps beyond that. Carrick says that contractors working on projects already under construction – especially big projects – have a strong desire to carry them all the way through but are finding it difficult to do so. He explains that given recent dramatic job loss numbers with US unemployment claims going up by 16.8 million in just three weeks, banks have become increasingly reluctant to lend money to project owners, concerned

whether those companies will be able to remain in business. There is, however, a lot of uncertainty about what all this could mean going forward. “We know that we have a massive economic mess on our hands – certainly a significant recession, if not an economic depression,” Plummer says. Although he believes that short of bankruptcy and/ or liquidation, a good percentage of non-residential construction projects will eventually be finished, although it is hard to say when. That, AISC’s Stine says, depends upon when social distancing and travel restrictions begin to be lifted, noting that already there has been some political push, including by President Trump and some members of his administration, to get America back to work. “If it is a short enough timeframe, it is possible that the impact upon structural steel could just be minimal,” she says, maintaining that given that the US economy was strong before the virus hit, this will be nothing like the Great Recession and that after ‘some form of a recession’ she is optimistic about the future of construction over the next several years. Others aren’t so positive. Carrick, for example, says he believes that people who are expecting there will be a strong pick-up on the other side are looking at this through rose-coloured glasses. “It is more likely that there is going to be a pretty significant recovery phase given that May/June 2020

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STRUCTURAL STEEL

demand won’t be there for a while given that people won’t be able to afford to spend much money,” he explains, noting that given these conditions businesses will remain cautious for a while. Simonson agrees. In fact, he predicts that the construction sector could be one of the last US industrial sectors to rebound once the current Covid-19 restrictions are finally eased. “That’s because project

owners will either be short of funds, out of business altogether or hesitant to make a big financial commitment until they are confident the demand for a project is there.” He says one possible exception could be infrastructure as Congress might finally be willing to agree to a significant infrastructure spending increase as a stimulus measure. Cowen’s Kenyon agrees, noting that state and local gasoline tax hikes have also helped to shore up funding for supporting infrastructure. Plummer, however, questions how much of an impact that will have upon structural steel given that only 5% of structural steel consumption comes from public works construction projects and that the steel used for bridge spans is mainly fabricated plate – not structural steel. “Obviously any projects that were already underway and were just awaiting an May/June 2020

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all-clear order are likely to finish once the pandemic-related construction restrictions begin to ease,” Simonson says, although it is a different story for projects that hadn’t yet been started or that were put on hold. “Owners will be re-examining whether those projects are still needed and whether they have the finances to go ahead with them,” he explains. Different non-residential construction sectors will likely come back at different speeds. Stine says some of the early ‘hot spots’ will likely be healthcare, pharmaceuticals, distribution and warehousing construction, which are very quick, repetitive, fast-paced projects that could be modularised. Healthcare construction, however, is a bit of a mixed bag for structural steel,

IHS Markit’s Hazelton says. For example, with the concerns about the virus spread, construction of medical office buildings and medical special care facilities – including nursing homes, physical therapy facilities and testing locations – has been down for the time being, although there could be more building or upgrades of nursing homes in the future aimed at preventing such disease outbreaks.

On the other hand, there continues to be ongoing hospital projects, although Hazelton says much of that has been concentrating on the upgrading of ventilation systems versus structures and the conversion of hotels and other existing buildings into healthcare facilities, which, in many cases does not require structural steel work. “Warehousing and distribution construction is one area that should unequivocally come out of this with more demand, with more people learning the advantages of ordering online and having things delivered to them,” Simonson points out. He says that in addition to being one of the first construction sectors to recover, this trend is likely to continue even once the crisis is over. Conversely, Carrick says this will likely put even more downward pressure upon the retail sector, which had already been ‘sinking like a rock’ prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ‘new normal’ Some also question whether some shifts during this crisis to more people working from home could create, at least to some degree, a ‘new normal’ for office or school construction. In recent years US office vacancies came down dramatically, returning to levels not seen since prior to the Great Recession. However, Simonson says it seems as if more employers are starting to find that they can do with fewer people in the office. “The question is whether they will now encourage – or order – employees to work remotely and just come into the office occasionally,” which, he says, could mean that they don’t have the need to build, or rent, as much expensive high-rise office space. There is little doubt that 2020 will be a highly negative year for the US structural steel market with a double digit decline in demand. Cowen’s Kenyon says that while there could be a little snapback after business activity levels are eventually restored, it will likely be a slow, several year crawl upwards, although the passage of a stimulus that includes infrastructure investment could potentially speed that up to some degree. The recovery, however, is more likely to be in lockstep with that of the non-residential construction sector, which Hazelton says isn’t likely to get back to 2019 peak levels for another three to five years. � www.steeltimesint.com

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PROCESS CONTROL

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Condition monitoring – the next level How can an operator properly handle the myriad of data and alerts of his steel plant? The answer is to have sufficiently intelligent software. But what are the important characteristics of such a solution, and what are the requirements for a steel producer to operate such a system? Andreas Maierhofter* offers some answers

Fig. 1 – Operators and maintenance engineers need a digital assistance system to properly analyse ‘big data’, to evaluate the generated insights and to set the ‘right actions’ to ensure the reliable and efficient operation of the plant. Credit: © Primetals Technologies

WITHIN the last decades more and more sensors and systems were added to steel plants in order to collect more and more data and information. The goal was clear: generate more insights about the current ‘health status’ of the plant and optimise the production with respect to quality, productivity and flexibility to stay competitive in the global steel market. The collection of such ‘big data’ was possible due to the dramatic drop in price for hard drives and solid-state-drives. Today, however, the huge amount of systems, information and alerts cannot be handled by humans any more – not even by experienced operators or maintenance engineers. The continually increasing connectivity of different aggregates in a steel plant additionally increases the complexity of collected information and adds unseen interdependencies between data sets. (Fig.1) Condition monitoring In a steel plant, operators and maintenance engineers must take care about a stable production, a steady product quality and a high shift-independent productivity. They continuously monitor the ‘health status’ of their plant in order to prevent a performance drop, unplanned maintenance or unscheduled downtimes. It all started with simple vibration

“NEEDS OF STEEL PRODUCERS” •

One central solution to overcome all these challenges

Open system based on standard interfaces

Assistance and guidance on what actions to be set

Accelerated decision making

Understandable status reports

Digitalised know-how based on operational practice

Available solution on all devices (also mobile)

Easy operation of solution

Always up-to-date plant status information

monitoring. The operator just listened to ‘his plant’ to determine any non-standard operational status. In fact, often they just attached a screwdriver to a machine and put their ear onto the handle to collect ‘insights’. Over the years more and more sensors were added to the plant to gain more insights and to improve overall performance. Mobile devices could be

connected to individual machines to visualise the status. Still, at that time the operator collected a large amount of singular data and had to create an overall interpretation of the information by himself. Nowadays, a steel plant is equipped with a myriad of sensors and systems generating a huge amount of data, information and alerts 24/7 and 365

* Head of technological controls, simulation and condition monitoring systems, Primetals Technologies Germany GmbH www.steeltimesint.com

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PROCESS CONTROL

“CHALLENGES OF STEEL PRODUCERS” • Handling huge amount of systems, information and alerts • Improving competitiveness by orchestrated maintenance activities

Fig 2. Modern steel plants are equipped with a myriad of sensors, which generate a huge amount of data.

• Digitalising know-now to compensate lack and loss of qualified personnel

Credit: © iStock.com/SlobodanMiljevic

• Monitoring process-relevant functions besides classical vibration measurements

days a year. (Fig.2) Even an experienced operator or maintenance engineer is no longer capable of properly analysing these ‘big data’ to evaluate the generated insights and to set the ‘right actions’ to ensure the reliable and efficient operation of the plant. Set corrective and compensative actions primarily address the single alert or alarm, but do not consider interdependencies between different sets of information. Often, therefore, the operator is running

• Practicing prescriptive maintenance instead of conventional condition monitoring • Avoiding unplanned maintenance or shutdowns

Fig 3.You drive a car and the oil lamp lights up. How Fig 4. Asset Life Expert (ALEX) from Primetals Technologies suggests recommended actions in order to handle alerts and

valuable is this information to you?

errors – based on operational practice. Credit: © Primetals Technologies

Credit: © iStock.com/dimarik

May/June 2020

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PROCESS CONTROL

Fig 5. Modern digital assistance systems can be coupled to various data sources, analyse and evaluate this information with intelligent algorithms and grow the digitalised knowhow for the maintenance and production team. Credit: © Primetals Technologies

at ‘fire fighting mode’ and has neither the time nor the tools to analyse existing alarms or errors in more detail to find actions, which solve existing problems on a higher level. Challenges of today Apart from the huge amount of information to be handled, an operator must overcome further challenges in order to maintain a constantly high performance of his steel plant. It is becoming increasingly difficult to qualify personnel for complex tasks. So, it is extremely important to digitalise know-how based on the current operational practice in order to be able to produce high-quality steel with high productivity independent of different shifts or production conditions. Dealing with a huge number of alarms and errors makes it necessary to orchestrate all maintenance activities to optimally utilise the existing human resources. Besides classical vibration measurements also process-relevant functions must be monitored to ensure that actions are set at the earliest possible stage. Apart from conventional condition monitoring, the new imperative is to exercise prescriptive maintenance. So, the maintenance team is guided not only by what (upcoming) problems shall be solved, but also how – step-by-step. Automotive industry condition monitoring Let us have a look at the automotive industry. In the early days, the driver hardly had any information about the status of the car – sometimes not even a fuel gauge. Now, imagine you drive a ‘state-of-the-art car’ with all possible warning indicators, and the oil lamp lights up. How valuable www.steeltimesint.com

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is this information for you? (Fig. 3) Well, most likely you will be aware that there is a problem with your car related to the oil. Most likely there is not enough oil available. But what to do next? Can you continue driving? And if yes, for how long? Advanced automotive suppliers have already pushed way ahead with this concept of ‘condition monitoring’ in a car. Apart from advanced self-driving abilities, some cars are equipped with a central board computer with a big touch panel. This system is the one and only system for collecting information about (possible) errors and alerts, processing and displaying this information and proposing proper corrective actions. No longer must the driver deal with so many warning lamps. What are the bones of a steel plant operator’s dream? Wouldn’t it be great to have such a system for your steel plant? It should be one central solution processing all alarms and errors of at least one aggregate, or optimally of the entire steel plant. It should be an open system based on standard interfaces, such that existing data sources can easily be integrated. The operators and maintenance engineers shall receive assistance and guidance towards what corrective and compensational actions shall be set, and which significantly accelerates decision making. Understandable status reports can be generated on demand to provide a detailed overview of the ‘health’ of your steel plant. Such know-how is continuously digitalised based on plant operational practice and can be used on all possible devices – especially mobile. And the system is easy to operate and always up-to-date.

Doesn’t that sound great? (Fig.4) Intelligent digital assistance In fact, such solutions already exist for the metals industry. First, it is important that various condition monitoring evaluation packages and other data sources can be connected to the solution via standard interfaces. This shall include raw data such as event recorders, different (smart) sensors, information from vibration monitoring, technological control systems (basic automation) as well as process models (process automation and digital twins). Also, manual input from operators has to be considered as one of the most valuable sources of information. Therefore, the solution needs the right software architecture in order to enable the processing of all these inputs. Once the data is collected, the solution needs to handle the data in multiple dimensions. By advanced analysis methods and intelligent evaluation tools all data are processed to identify what information is correct and relevant, to detect interdependencies between different information pieces and to consider operational practice for the particular steel plant, for which the system is in operation. Recommended actions Based on set corrective and compensational actions in the past, the system proposes recommended actions for each individual error and alarm. Additionally, an easily understandable description is displayed. Once the operator has selected and set an action, the system saves this information to continuously learn and improve future recommendations. Therefore, the solution must be equipped with process know-how. � page 44 May/June 2020

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ENVIRONMENT

Sustainability in action Outokumpu’s carbon footprint is three times lower than the industry average. Last year the company updated its Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and is forging ahead with a programme of initiatives designed to uphold its values in this important element of steel production and processing. There are some impressive statistics: 90.6% of steel slag is used; recycled content makes up 85% of worldwide production. In 2018 the International Stainless Steel Federation awarded the Finnish steelmaker a gold medal for sustainability and a silver medal for technological innovation and for its work in the field of safety. By Kari Tuutti*

Tornio mill from the air

IN the past 12 months, we’ve seen a significant increase in the level of importance that our customers place on sustainability. The reason is that they themselves are increasingly being expected to report on the carbon footprint of their products and solutions. That’s why we decided to help this process by introducing our updated new Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in 2019. These EPDs provide data on the carbon footprint of Outokumpu’s stainless steel products, making them a critical tool for us to communicate our sustainability

credentials to our customers. We are already the leader in the stainless steel industry when it comes to having a low carbon footprint, as our own footprint is three times lower than the industry average. However, the EPDs are helping us go to the next level. Because they are independently verified by a third party, our customers can have complete confidence in using this data to calculate their own carbon footprint. As a result, they are helping our customers to communicate their own sustainability credentials. That gives them the proof they need to respond

to the demand from consumers who demand to have sustainable goods and are sometimes willing to pay a premium for them. Data in the EPDs can be applied across a range of sectors. So far, we’ve had most feedback from the automotive and construction industries. The latter has a long tradition of reporting on sustainability and meeting government legislation on sustainability and energy use in buildings – therefore it’s a logical progression on their existing practices. Similarly, the automotive industry also has

* President of business area long products and head of group sustainability at Outokumpu May/June 2020

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ENVIRONMENT

Kari Tuutti

rolled stainless steel, long products, and rebar. We publish all of this information in the sustainability section of our website and currently we are the only stainless steel company to do this. EPDs are documents which account for the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire lifecycle, as verified by a third party. EPDs take account of carbon dioxide emissions at every step of our production, including the collection of scrap and raw materials, use of low-carbon energy at our mills, and transport and distribution. Outokumpu’s EPDs have been independently verified through the Institut Bauen und Umwelt (IBU), a German association which specialises in validating the environmental performance and sustainability of materials for the building and construction industry. IBU currently has more than 200 members, and between them they have created a total of more than 1,000 EPDs regarding a variety

Unloading the recycling content from the ferry

regulatory drivers for reporting of carbon footprints and other sustainability practices. It’s too early to say what impact the EPDs will have on our market share, but we’ve had feedback from one customer that they have already used the data to calculate the carbon footprint of a conceptual bridge. We hope that as customers become more familiar with the EPDs, they’ll find new ways to use them to promote their own sustainability. Carbon footprint from cradle to gate Our EPDs fully account for the environmental impact associated with our products – cold-rolled stainless steel, hotwww.steeltimesint.com

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of civil engineering and construction products. EPDs take the form of “type III environmental declarations” and adhere to the ISO 14025 standard. While they have been developed for construction, they can be applied by companies in any sector who want to calculate their own carbon footprint. Accounting for the environmental impact of your own company requires a thorough understanding of the impact of each of the materials you use. You need your suppliers to produce detailed and independently verified data covering the carbon dioxide emissions at every step of their production. With this data, OEMs can precisely calculate their own environmental performance and easily and transparently

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compare the environmental performance of different suppliers so that they can make the most sustainable choices. Carbon neutrality by 2050? Creating EPDs for our products is simply the latest measure in our decades-long effort to improve sustainability. We recognised back in 1975 that sustainability made sense for the bottom line, and we are today working to align our company’s strategy with the UN’s sustainable development goals. Outokumpu leads the industry in lowering carbon emissions. Our stainless steel products generate as little as one-tenth of the carbon emissions of steel produced in the Asia-Pacific region. However, we are not content to stop there: we are on track to further cut our carbon dioxide emissions by a fifth by 2023 and we are committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. In addition to the emissions directly generated in the production process, somewhere between 20% and 40% of the cost of steel production is in the energy used, according to the World Steel Association. Reducing the amount of energy used and ensuring that it comes from responsible sources is a key challenge for steel producers to limit their environmental impact. Knowing this, we have worked tirelessly to improve the efficiency of our processes. Since our steel making processes need to work at more than 1,000 °C, this is very challenging. We are targeting a 1% reduction in our company-wide energy use every year, and we continue to push towards that goal. We have also organised our production sites in such a way as to maximise use of our energy, for example through heat recovery, which makes the energy we use do more. At the same time we try to use low carbon sources for our electricity needs, further reducing our footprint. While the initial production of steel has a notable environmental impact, the material’s properties inherently lend themselves to sustainability. Stainless steel is fully recyclable – without losing its unique properties – which is an incredible opportunity to further reduce emissions. At the same time, we also want to use recycled materials as raw material as much as possible, the recycled content of our steel is more than 85%. Stainless steel is also a uniquely tough material, with unparalleled strength and May/June 2020

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ENVIRONMENT

durability for its weight, and we are proud to provide steel to biofuel, wind energy, green construction, and low-carbon transportation companies, among many others. European emission trading system The EU Emissions Trading System is a ‘cap and trade’ carbon emission reduction scheme to push industry to reduce emissions. By slowly lowering the cap, the system pushes companies to adopt more sustainable practices over time. The nature of a cap and trade scheme allows companies to buy and sell carbon credits from one another internationally, within limits. Companies which are achieving their goals will have a surplus of credits, and benefit from selling them to peers or storing them for the future, rewarding them for their success. This economic strategy ensures that emissions are cut in the most cost-effective way, while providing an incentive to adopt new, clean strategies wherever possible. However, the system is not perfect. Specifically, Asian steel producers do not face the same carbon restrictions as those within the EU, and they are able to flood the market with their high-emission steel. The European Commission is considering implementing a global carbon tariff system to address this, which would homogenise carbon standards for industrial products regardless of origin. Safety first Environmental considerations cannot simply be a mandate from the top down; employees must share in the vision and support the goals. This is only possible when more immediate concerns, such as their physical safety, are thoroughly addressed, which is part of why we have set a goal of zero annual accidents. In 2017, we established a set of Cardinal Safety Rules for our employees worldwide, and the following year we launched our global Safety Awards programme. We hold Safety Week every year, and our CEO hosts monthly safety calls where employees from all levels of the company can raise issues. As a result of our commitment to safety, employees can turn their focus to longerterm concerns such as climate change. We work to ensure that every employee understands the fundamental importance of sustainability to our company, and we May/June 2020

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are always pleased to see our passion for improvement reciprocated by employees. Many participate in improvement projects, both small- and large-scale, to continually improve the way that Outokumpu operates and reduce our environmental impact. Supply chain and on-site efforts Sustainability is a consideration at every phase of our business, something which our EPDs can attest to. From materials purchasing through logistics and production to customer delivery, we want our products to have a minimal impact on the environment. Every one of our sites is fully ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, as affirmed by regular external audits, and we hold all of our suppliers and contractors to these same stringent standards. We also make efforts at our facilities to minimise waste by reusing materials and byproducts at every stage of production. As well as reusing water, acids, gasses, and slag formers, we even recover metals from dust created during the production process. Slag capture is particularly important, as steel making produces a large amount of slag as a by-product, and we are happy to announce that in 2019 90.6% of the slag we produced was used. We are even using the carbon monoxide from ferrochrome production at our Kemi-Tornio site in Finnish Lapland, including using some process gasses to provide heating to on-site buildings. According to our sustainability report,

recycled content makes up more than 85% of our production worldwide – the highest proportion of recycled material of any producer on the market. This compares with an average of around 50% for stainless steel producers across Europe and North America, while the global average for steel producers is only about 35%. Committed to sustainability At Outokumpu, we are proud of our hard work and success so far and are committed to continuing to reduce the emissions of our steel. We are grateful that the International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) has recognised our work. In 2018 we received the ISSF’s gold medal for sustainability as well as a silver medal for our innovation in technology, in 2019 we received a silver medal for our safety work. We have achieved all of this, and intend to continue to do so, without sacrificing the need to succeed financially. We have provided our shareholders with robust financial performance, and we remain industry leaders, demonstrating that a commitment to the environment is not a barrier to success. Outokumpu has also joined the Responsible Steel initiative, an international non-profit organisation which endeavours to maximise the steel industry’s contribution toward sustainability. The initiative aims to identify and reward companies which produce steel responsibly throughout the value chain – from raw materials to final products – and to produce an international standard for sustainable steel production. � www.steeltimesint.com

19/05/2020 08:59:21


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32

INDUSTRY 4.0 AND STEELMAKING

Blast furnace 4.0

Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, is gathering strong momentum with increasingly broad acceptance of ‘digitisation[1]. Technology innovations are driving transformation in virtually every industry. Among these emerging technologies, digital twins are receiving great attention due to the steadily growing maturity of industrial Internet of Things (IoT), edge and cloud computing as well as the increased number of successful applications. By Yale Zhang, Mitren Sukhram, Ian Cameron, Janice Bolen and Alvaro Rozo* Fig 1. Hatch end-to-end digital service

* Hatch Ltd. 2800 Speakman Drive, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5K 2R7. May/June 2020

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INDUSTRY 4.0 AND STEELMAKING

Process monitoring Scenario analysis

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Fig 2. Blast Furnace 4.0 cornerstones

HATCH’S digital twin offering leverages our deep domain knowledge of clients’ business operations and integrating various sources of client data throughout the entire lifecycle of each asset to create a “single source of truth”. As illustrated in Fig. 1, a digital asset, formed during the ‘projects’ loop, contains high-fidelity engineering design models and as-built data. It is then integrated with real-time operation and maintenance data during the commissioning phase and evolved to a digital twin. The twin applies robust models and analytical technologies to optimise the asset’s performance along the ‘operations’ loop, eventually transforming to a design for future projects. In this paper, we focus on digital twin applications for operations and present a Hatch digital twin solution for ironmaking blast furnaces, named Blast Furnace 4.0 [2]. Blast furnace 4.0 and its cornerstones A blast furnace is one of the most significant assets in an integrated iron and steel plant. Modern blast furnaces are well instrumented and equipped with many www.steeltimesint.com

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computer applications across different process areas for production management, process monitoring and control purposes. Although a large volume of data is collected, we are not yet able to master the complete truth of blast furnaces due to a lack of technical capabilities to measure a furnace’s internal state. The collected data is often managed in silos, each serving one or a few isolated use cases. This makes it difficult for blast furnace operators and engineers to interpret a furnace’s inner state and precisely control hot metal/pig iron quality. In addition, the ‘siloed’ data can cause a fragmented (rather than holistic) view of the hot metal value chain, leading to missed opportunities for integrated business decisions. All these issues negatively affect our capability to sense and analyse the blast furnace operation and make timely decisions to solve production, quality and cost challenges, while adhering to a high standard of safety and environmental performance. Blast Furnace 4.0 aims to solve this problem by integrating Hatch’s ironmaking process experience, and advanced modeling

and data analytics expertise into a digital twin solution. The twin can predict future conditions, conduct scenario analysis, and provide consistent and timely guidance to achieve a stable and economical blast furnace operation. Blast Furnace 4.0 consists of five cornerstones; smart sensors, IoT data integration, operational intelligence, integrated business decision making and workforce connectivity. Each aspect includes one or more digital twin offerings as depicted in Fig. 2. Smart sensors Having the ability to generate new critical data of blast furnace operations can have a large impact on furnace productivity and quality control. Hatch has partnered with the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada to develop and commercialise a new smart sensor called PyroLIBS. This technology uses Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to continuously measure the chemical composition of hot metal while the blast furnace is casting and provide immediate feedback to a thermal control system for real-time process optimisation [3]. May/June 2020

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INDUSTRY 4.0 AND STEELMAKING

IoT data integration In order to break the data siloes, relevant blast furnace data needs to be delivered to all stakeholders in a transparent manner at their fingertips as well as in a fit-forrole format that enables them to visualise and make faster decisions. Using an IoT data integration approach to establish a ‘single source of truth’, Hatch is able to orchestrate relevant blast furnace data from various data sources (including real-time operational data, equipment downtime and maintenance records, raw materials and product quality, etc.) and contextualise it using high-fidelity models that can be presented in different visual formats (including dashboards, 3D, VR/AR). This means that a virtual digital image of an operating blast furnace that can support multiple use cases and stakeholders can be delivered. Operational intelligence By laying a solid IoT foundation, data integration becomes a significant enabler needed to achieve operational intelligence. Together with integrated business decisionmaking, these core values are key to Blast Furnace 4.0. Operational intelligence is built upon Hatch’s ironmaking experience and a combination of advanced first principle and data-driven modeling technologies. Among many others, we have identified four valueadded themes of use cases. • Process monitoring: Blast Furnace 4.0 continuously monitors the furnace operation in real-time and detects abnormal process drifts and upsets, allowing operators to respond promptly and bring the process back to normal. Tuyere water leak detection is a typical use case in this theme [4]. Upon receiving a water leak alert, operators will verify the alert by performing a ‘gas test’ and detect a small water leak at the earliest possible moment. This allows the operator time to determine the best course of action – whether and when the tuyere needs to be replaced to prevent a potential increase of fuel rate, refractory damage and further production loss. • Scenario analysis: Process engineers use Blast Furnace 4.0 to simulate the ironmaking process, check instrument performance, conduct what-if analysis under various operating scenarios, and make or adapt production plans accordingly. For instance, through burden May/June 2020

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distribution simulations, process engineers can search the best distribution matrix (i.e., angles and charge weights) to achieve the desired ore-to-coke ratio on the stockline.

production or reducing carbon emissions. This is essential to help ironmakers respond quickly to changes in market conditions and improve their competitive advantages.

• Operation guidance: With enough information and using its built-in intelligent logic, Blast Furnace 4.0 provides actionable recommendations to the operators. One example is blast furnace thermal control, which provides online suggestions to correct the fuel injection rate every 30 minutes, forecasts the future hot metal temperature and provides guidance after every cast to maintain a stable temperature going forward.

Workforce connectivity Finally, a well-designed blast furnace digital twin must provide additional value by enabling remote support and operator training by sharing digital twin data with subject matter experts or operators using a secured cloud infrastructure. VR/AR technology has been integrated into Blast Furnace 4.0 to provide an interactive and visual standard operating procedure, for example, blast furnace tuyere replacement once water leakage is detected. We foresee significant benefits in implementing these tools in the blast furnace workplace as the technology matures over the next few years.

• Asset predictive maintenance: Predictive maintenance is a typical digital twin service. Blast Furnace 4.0 uses a thermal assessment model to monitor the hearth refractory temperature and thickness in real time. Once high-risk spots have been detected, predictive maintenance measures, such as ilmenite point charging, can be surgically implemented to protect the refractory hearth wall [5]. Integrated business decision The blast furnace is not a stand-alone operation, it is linked to many other upstream and downstream operations such as the coke plant, sinter/pellet plant, steelmaking shop, or even a power plant through complicated material and energy flows, which represent the hot metal value chain. Blast Furnace 4.0 analyses this value chain in an holistic way, identifies raw material, production and quality constraints, and furthermore minimises hot metal production costs subject to these constraints. Hatch can deploy powerful optimisation tools to quickly find the best strategy to meet the immediate goals, be this minimising coke rate, maximising

Case study: casting guidance Casting is an important aspect of blast furnace control and stable operations. Matching the continuous nature of smelting hot metal and slag to the intermittent process of casting, the blast furnace is often challenging for operators. Ideally, the rate of hot metal and slag removal would match the rate at which hot metal and slag are produced, leading to no liquid accumulation in the blast furnace hearth [6]. Accumulated liquids can exert back pressure on the tuyere raceways, distort the gas flow in the blast furnace and have a significantly negative impact on furnace operation. In an extreme scenario when molten slag and/or hot metal are at an elevation substantially above the tuyeres, a sudden shutdown will lead to filling the tuyeres with slag, and in the worst case scenario iron, leading to a delayed start-up. This is a major risk that should be avoided. Many blast furnace operators follow casting rules developed through experience, but lack online tools to www.steeltimesint.com

19/05/2020 10:00:41


INDUSTRY 4.0 AND STEELMAKING

measure the hearth liquid level to validate the rules in real time. Casting guidance To help operators cast the furnace and avoid operational problems, Hatch has developed a casting guidance model as part of Blast Furnace 4.0. The casting guidance model is a mass balance tracking the liquids entering and exiting the hearth. A modified Bernoulli’s equation is used to calculate the total casting rate based on taphole geometry, blast pressure, liquid head, and friction factor assumptions. With the assistance of the casting guidance model, the irregular nature of casting rates compared to production rates becomes evident. The operator can better anticipate when a suitable countermeasure should be employed, for example, overlapping casts, changing drill bit diameter, or reducing the production rate. A dry hearth practice is when iron is tapped continuously and slag is tapped

Fig 3. Illustration of blast furnace casting guidance model

www.steeltimesint.com

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95% of the time [6]. A dry hearth practice assures that an increasing hearth liquid level does not impact gas flow within the blast furnace by exerting pressure on the raceway regions. Fuel injection can be maximised when a dry hearth is maintained. Accumulated hot metal and slag can retard burden descent and create unwanted hangs and slips. Most importantly, the blast furnace can be rapidly shutdown whenever required without fear of filling the tuyeres and blow pipes with molten slag and/or hot metal. The casting guidance model, presented in Fig. 3, shows a typical casting practice on a two-taphole furnace. The trend plot shows the hearth liquid level and the Gantt chart shows the casting of north and south tapholes including the time when the hole is opened, slag is seen, and the hole is closed. Just before 16:00 hours (as indicated by (1)) the model shows that there is an accumulation of hot metal and slag. This tool alerts the operators to take corrective action to reduce hearth liquid levels. There is a scenario analysis function built into the casting guidance model to predict the future hearth liquid level by adjusting the casting schedule and/or drilling parameters. In this case, opening a second taphole at 17:10 hours (as indicated by (2)) and overlapping the cast will quickly drain the furnace to maintain a dry hearth practice. The casting guidance model is effective in helping cast house leaders manage the casting practice, marshal torpedo ladles at the right moment while multi-tasking at the many responsibilities they need to perform.

35

Conclusions With the development of Industry 4.0, there is no doubt that more and more industries will transform their traditional operations towards digital intelligence. Our experience indicates the digital twin is an ideal starting point of this journey due to its capability of orchestrating data to a ‘single source of truth’ to increase data transparency and user engagement, and more importantly, convert data into actionable intelligence and improve human decision-making through various digital twin offerings. Blast Furnace 4.0 is a example of digital twin application and can bring significant benefits to operations as illustrated by the casting guidance case study. Hatch has put significant efforts into blast furnace model development and made good progress implementing these online with its partner steelmakers. Instead of providing a “one size fits all” solution, Blast Furnace 4.0 intends to build a digital twin to reflect the owner’s operating philosophy through a close collaborative partnership. The company values these partnerships to continue improving Blast Furnace 4.0 and other digital twin developments to make this technology a powerful contributor to digital transformation of the steel industry. �

References 1. Forschungsunion and Acatech, Recommendations for implementing the strategic initiative INDUSTRIE 4.0, In Acatech Deutsche Akademie Der Technikwissenschaften, April 2013 2. Y. Zhang, M. Sukhram, et al., Industrial Perspective of Digital Twin Development and Applications for Iron and Steel Processes, to be presented at AISTech 2020. 3. B. Shahriari, J. Bolen, et al., Development of the PyroLIBS Sensor: Direct and real-time measurement of molten material composition, to be presented at AISTech 2020 4. Y. Ghobara, R. Pula, I. Cameron, et al. Successful deployment of a tuyere leak softsensor at USS Blast Furnace No. 14, METEC 2019 5. J. Entwistle, I. Cameron, et al., Hearth Temperature Control at USS Blast Furnace No.14, AISTech 2019 6. I. Cameron, M. Sukhram, K. Lefebvre, W. Davenport, Blast Furnace Ironmaking: Analysis, Control, and Optimisation. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2020 May/June 2020

19/05/2020 10:00:49


ANSWER

Danieli Answers to be a step ahead

06

Danieli digimelter benchmark technology 15,000 heats per year at the lowest OpEx and environmental impact

Digimelter is the Danieli-patented technology with a unique combination of power, intelligence, and environmentally friendly equipment for the achievement of 15,000 heats per year with minimal OpEx, lowest environmental impacts, and high flexibility for raw materials. The Q-One electrical feeder provides the highest power factor and very low network flicker due to real-time arc control. It achieves unprecedent high-power transfer thanks to independent control of arc current, voltage and frequency, for each electrode. The Q-Melt intelligent controller runs EAF melting processes automatically, in a stable and adaptive way by making use of Q-Reg+ electrode regulator, Lindarc laser off-gas analyzer, and Melt-Model self-learning optimizer.

Twenty Danieli answers to be a step ahead

danieli.com

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01. 02. 03. 04. 05. 06. 07. 08.

Sustainability CO2 reduction 4.0 intelligent plant MIDA ECR QSP DUE Digimelter Energiron DRI Long-life BF

09. Quality slab casters 10. Pickling and cold mills 11. Galvanizing / Air knives 12. Billet casters 13. Billet welders 14. Wirerod mills 15. Rail and section mills 16. The Drawer sizing block 17. Reheating systems 18. Seamless tubes 19. Extrusion lines 20. Aluminium mills

Zero-bucket concept is accomplished by the ECS continuous scrap charging and preheating system, for reduced environmental impact and enhanced energy saving. Danieli EAF technology references include the recent, 150-ton EAF equipped with ECS at Guihang Metal Products, China, that achieved 36 heats per day, equivalent to 12,000 heats per year, only two months after startup.

19/05/20 09:05


ANSWER

Danieli Answers to be a step ahead

06

Danieli digimelter benchmark technology 15,000 heats per year at the lowest OpEx and environmental impact

Digimelter is the Danieli-patented technology with a unique combination of power, intelligence, and environmentally friendly equipment for the achievement of 15,000 heats per year with minimal OpEx, lowest environmental impacts, and high flexibility for raw materials. The Q-One electrical feeder provides the highest power factor and very low network flicker due to real-time arc control. It achieves unprecedent high-power transfer thanks to independent control of arc current, voltage and frequency, for each electrode. The Q-Melt intelligent controller runs EAF melting processes automatically, in a stable and adaptive way by making use of Q-Reg+ electrode regulator, Lindarc laser off-gas analyzer, and Melt-Model self-learning optimizer.

Twenty Danieli answers to be a step ahead

danieli.com

Danieli_pagine_2020_esecutivi_A3_05_14.indd 7-8

01. 02. 03. 04. 05. 06. 07. 08.

Sustainability CO2 reduction 4.0 intelligent plant MIDA ECR QSP DUE Digimelter Energiron DRI Long-life BF

09. Quality slab casters 10. Pickling and cold mills 11. Galvanizing / Air knives 12. Billet casters 13. Billet welders 14. Wirerod mills 15. Rail and section mills 16. The Drawer sizing block 17. Reheating systems 18. Seamless tubes 19. Extrusion lines 20. Aluminium mills

Zero-bucket concept is accomplished by the ECS continuous scrap charging and preheating system, for reduced environmental impact and enhanced energy saving. Danieli EAF technology references include the recent, 150-ton EAF equipped with ECS at Guihang Metal Products, China, that achieved 36 heats per day, equivalent to 12,000 heats per year, only two months after startup.

19/05/20 09:05


38

AUTOMATED COKEMAKING

Safer cokemaking This feature was written in April 2020, at a time when a great part of the world is under lockdown and physical distancing has become the ‘new normal’ in many countries. Like many other industries, coke making must prepare itself to operate under the new constraints and challenges that pandemics like Covid-19 bring with them. The uptake of automated coke making processes including manless coke oven machines and remote operating methodologies could experience a fast-track implementation, especially since the technology is readily available and proven to bring significant impact on safety and efficiency. Based on feedback and data from coke plants in different parts of the world, this article highlights a number of safety technologies and systems designed to enable operators to navigate the health and economical challenges presented by the Coronavirus crisis. By Oana Niculita*

AS the world will continue to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak for a while, governments around the world are issuing recommendations for remote working and physical distancing to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people. Where coke oven batteries are concerned, the highest impact on human health and safety is the ability to remove or limit direct exposure and interaction for personnel in hazardous areas. Automation technologies can be applied to coke oven machinery for the purpose of controlling their operation and removing the requirements for human operators.

However, many coke plants may adopt a multi-phased approach to manless automation, preferring to firstly implement a remote operating mode, to ensure adoption of the new philosophy, and then eventually making the transition to complete manless operation. Manning on coke oven machines can be eliminated by introducing mechanisms to autonomously carry out all necessary functions including automatic positioning. Remote operation involves the incorporation of all necessary mechanical, control, and communication equipment on the machine to enable remote control

with no operator on board. A remote HMI is separately installed in the battery control room or in a different area and connected to the machine via the existing Data Link system to ensure remote (or future manless) control. The control system on the coke oven machines is linked to a co-ordinating PLC via the Data Link system, facilitating data transfer to and from the co-ordination system and enabling remote machine operation and eventually future manless operation. The type of data transfer may be the transfer of pushing sequence, cross battery interlocking data, automatic

The JMH Automatic Positioning & Oven Identification System

* John M Henderson Ltd May/June 2020

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AUTOMATED COKEMAKING

39

Power & Fibre Optic Cable Reel installations on Coke Oven Machines

levelling sequence information, recording of operation data, recording event data, or recording information and trends for operation and maintenance. Some coke plants decide to make possible a more physically remote intervention. Technological developments in the area of data communication and electrical control systems make it possible for supervisors or coke plant managers to access and monitor operations on the battery even while being physically away from the plant. The monitoring team or person may visualise each individual motion of the machines from the comfort of their dedicated remote place from their replica operator interface on their remote desktop or smartphone application for example. All sequences and operations are available via graphic display pages on the touchscreen monitor/screen. Controlled from the remote HMI via the co-ordination PLC, the remote operator has the facility to monitor and operate every machine movement with the same interlocks as in automatic mode utilising the CCTV images from on board the machine. Real time CCTV images transmitted from the machines to the control room or the remote location ensure safety is maintained. This has been considered especially useful when prompt decision making and intervention was needed in a timely manner for emergency situations. www.steeltimesint.com

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Essential safety systems Fully automatic mode is the next level of operation after the remote method. Started from the machine HMI or from the battery control room HMI, this enables manless operations of complete oven cycles providing that all necessary interlocks are completed via the co-ordination PLC. • Safety philosophy for remote or manless operation To implement a higher level of operation as remote or automatic, safety systems must be integrated on coke oven machines. They comprise of installation of necessary mechanical protection and suitably designed PLC programmes on the machines. Interlocks are essential to guarantee that: • The coke oven machines area is protected against personnel presence during operation • Incorrect direction of travel is avoided by the control system • Control modes are combined with safety interlocks • Alignment of machines is monitored using safety procedures • HMIs are displaying accurate process status and alarms. • Automatic positioning and oven identification system One of the most important functions of

‘unmanned’ machines is their autonomous ability to know exactly where they are positioned at any time and be able to transmit that information to the battery control room. The JMH automatic positioning system is a magnetic device consisting of a reader head mounted on the machines and transmitter heads mounted on each oven, bunker and maintenance position. It is a contactless system and provides guaranteed alignment accuracy of 3mm. The machine will autonomously accelerate, travel at constant speed, decelerate and accurately position to a pre-scheduled oven without any input or requirement from the operator. The oven identification system is used in conjunction with the pushing/charging schedule within the battery control room with communications between the two systems via the data transmission system. • Data transmission systems Data communication is an essential element that ensures the reliability of data transfer and it can be provided by either wireless LAN or fibre optic cable reel. Wireless LAN is the simpler system to integrate onto existing machines although cable reels can bring major advantages to plants plagued by trolley wire issues. The cable reel provides a stable power supply with the added benefit of utilising fibre optic May/June 2020

19/05/2020 10:28:11


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AUTOMATED COKEMAKING

+60 °C). The CCTV systems operate on 360° endless panning and under minimum illumination. They are linked to the control room or any other areas in the network and have mobile terminal capability on iPad, iPhone and AndroidTM mobile terminals. Coke oven machine operation under Covid-19 outbreak Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, the uptake of automated cokemaking processes, including manless coke oven machines and remote operating methodologies, had been adopted at an exponential rate. Results showed that by reducing the manpower directly involved in coke production, coke operators were significantly reducing the labour cost and process cycle times, while also improving economic efficiency.

JMH Anti-Collision System installed on a Coke Locomotive

cores, which provide the most reliable data communication system. Pusher machines and transfer cars have cable reels mounted as standard and on single collecting main batteries. Fibre optic reels can be mounted on charge cars. This solution can be beneficial on plants with a limited number of radio frequencies or plants, which suffer interference. Anti-Collision Systems Anti-collision systems are essential for the autonomous operations of the machines. They work in conjunction with the auto positioning system or as a standalone unit. With the stand-alone solution, devices are mounted on each machine and the separation distance is monitored. The system is fully programmable in order to control a deceleration distance point and a travel-inhibit distance point. When the system is used in conjunction with a data transmission system with machine co-ordination from the battery control room, the oven identification system operates as a back-up in that it can also monitor the relative distance between machines and instruct a long travel speed control action if there is any issue with the machine mounted anti-collision system. • Personnel protection systems Manless or remotely operated machines May/June 2020

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create an environment where operators are away from the machines, raising, therefore, safety concerns for any personnel who may be located on the battery for different reasons (maintenance or production personnel for areas that have not been or cannot be automated). Personnel proximity detection systems are designed and installed to ensure that personnel are safe from potentially dangerous situations. JMH’s personnel protection system uses safety laser scanners in conjunction with a maximum defined protection zone. It is equipped with an algorithm capable of discerning differences between reflected light from dust and mist and reflected light from objects that must always be detected to ensure safety. Distance is measured by detected signals at two different levels. The system uses built-in cameras allowing video from the scanner to be seen in real time. • CCTV safety systems With the latest advancements in high performance anti-corrosion dome CCTV cameras, safety is enabled by providing accurate and reliable views of all angles of coke operation (bunker, machines, ovens and so on) even in an environment of high levels of shock, dust, water resistance, ambient operating humidity (10% to 100 %), and operating temperature (-50 °C to

Uncharted territory The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the world into somewhat uncharted territory — and in some industries, like steel making, that might be leading to a significant boom in the efforts towards automation and reducing the number of personnel directly involved in operating the coke oven machines. COVID-19 could be a shock that will unleash a rapid response from coke operators towards fast-track automation, especially given the fact that the technology is readily available and already proven to have a significant impact on safety and efficiency. Some coke plants may choose to adopt a multi-phase approach starting to automate one area of the battery in a small-scale project, then gradually extending the concept to other areas. Others might go ahead and apply manless technologies on a larger scale. Charting a more sustainable course While the outbreak of COVID-19 might bring uncertainty for many in the coke making industry, the appeal of technologies and approaches that decrease site workforce numbers and travel will be growing as the industry seeks to chart a more sustainable course. Like many other industries, coke making must prepare itself to operate under the new constraints and challenges that such pandemics bring with them. Automation can be the answer to many of these challenges. � www.steeltimesint.com

19/05/2020 10:28:12


LET’S STAY #CONNECTED

CONNECT WITH US With the new SMS group Connect app, you have all the latest news on our innovations and developments right at your fingertips. Most relevant information on one user-friendly interface Create your customized dashboard individually adapted to your special interest Log in for exclusive content

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AUTOMOTIVE

Prepare for the future today Over the past decades, the steel industry has been well-versed in learning to cope with volatile and turbulent market conditions brought about by cyclical economic conditions. In early 2020, however, the global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has put the steel industry and its downstream customers into uncharted territory. By Dr Andrew Zoryk* IN uncharted waters, previous experiences of market downturns and economic uncertainty no longer apply. The domino effect of, for example, the rapid idling of automotive production capacity by leading OEMs in Europe, dramatically and negatively impacted the order books of steelmakers, who in turn were forced to reduce production levels. Furthermore, the demand for steel that remained became more uncertain in its character – placing steelmakers’ business processes under greater stress. Customer order books became very uncertain and dynamic, requiring ‘continuous’ daily evaluation, co-ordination and re-planning of orders and production facilities – typically with very high manual efforts. Despite these ‘firefighting’ actions, however, steel producers could also still not be sure that the finished goods could be really dispatched on the agreed due dates to customers, creating additional logistical complexity. Business management for steelmakers entered a new era of ‘fingertip sensitivity’ in decision-making and control, putting their knowledge of customers and markets, as well as internal business processes to the test. Stepping back from the daily supply chain and order book volatility, steel companies also need to think about and prepare for the future after COVID-19. For example, what differences might there be in the automotive market of the future – as compared to the previously expected market trends envisaged at the end of 2019? As part of their strategic thinking, steel companies supplying the automotive sector – be it Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) directly or automotive suppliers – need to assess the post-crisis drivers that will impact the

industry and their potential consequences on automotive steels, as well as prefabricated steel-based assemblies and components. Despite material substitution threats, steel today remains a key automotive material making up around 55% of light vehicles by weight and, over the past years, the continuous introduction of new Advanced High Strength Steels (AHSS) has contributed to reducing weight by around 25% in many components – helping to ensure competitiveness against other substitution threats, such as aluminium. Despite the tremendous advances in innovation and design that steel companies have made to help sustain steel’s position as a core automotive material, however, steelmakers need to look further into the future to anticipate the strategic moves that OEMs are likely to make, which could influence – positively or negatively – this position. One reference data point comes from better understanding automotive consumers. As part of its regular annual analysis of global automotive consumer behaviour, in late 2019 Deloitte surveyed more than 35,000 consumers in 20 countries globally to understand their opinions regarding a variety of critical issues affecting the automotive sector. The results showed that: • Interest in electric vehicles continues to grow around the world. Despite significant barriers to adoption, consumers want to see an alternative engine in their next vehicle. • In many markets, interest in selfdriving, autonomous vehicles has stalled because of concerns about their perceived safety. In some countries, such as India and China, negative perception has actually increased.

• Consumers are resistant to multimodal mobility. For example, in countries such as Germany, United States and Japan, less than 20% of people use multiple modes of transport in a single trip. Current and expected automotive consumer behaviour has, of course, a significant impact on the thinking of the leading OEMs and the development of their business strategies for the next 5 to 10 years, in key areas such as electric and autonomous vehicles. These strategies will directly influence the value chains of OEMs – from research and development through to outbound logistics – and consequently investment decisions in production capacity and supply chain capabilities. In addition to analysing automotive consumer sentiment, another reference data point comes from predicting potential OEM future strategies, with a particular focus on value chain impacts. Prior to the 2020 crisis, there was a clear and growing threat to the OEMs’ traditional dominance of the automotive market from both new market entrants – in the form of ‘Silicon Valley’ technology players (Alphabet, Aptiv), as well as software and analytics tech giants (Google, Amazon) disrupting the supplier value chains. Based on these threats, some possible future scenarios for OEMs could include: • ‘Stagnation’ – the threat of new entrants into the automotive market does not truly materialise, for example due to a lack of acceptance of autonomous vehicles, allowing OEMs to maintain their market dominance and grow sales. The underlying technology potential for the industry is not realised. OEMs try to survive by playing to their traditional strengths of high quality at an affordable price – focusing on

* Deloitte. May/June 2020

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AUTOMOTIVE

incremental efficiency improvements, niche markets and company vehicle business to compete in a tough market environment with financially potent competitors. • ‘Lost Dominance’ - The brand image of the traditional players suffers, as consumers turn-away from traditional OEMs, displaced by fierce competition from new IT and technology market entrants and enforced government regulations around E-mobility. As a result, OEM sales decline, partly offset by an increase in white label manufacturing on behalf of new players. Key to survival for the OEMs is achieving some form of mid-term stability of their market position through collaboration and lobbying with other OEMs, in order to protect know-how and influence against emerging competitors. • ‘Hardware Platform’ – Cars develop into full-fledged high-tech products, where leading technology players gain broad access into the automotive world, providing significant elements of key software and mobility services. Significant new brands emerge, where traditional OEMs produce the shell and platform, plus some remaining premium segment models, enabling them to grow revenues. Such changes drive also different automotive lifecycles and put additional demands on R&D investments, perhaps even resulting in the re-location of production closer to business partners. • ‘Setting Standards’ – Broad adoption of E-mobility, autonomous driving becomes the new normal, with OEMs leading the development, with brand attractiveness playing a decisive role in consumer buying behaviour. In such a scenario, the OEMs grow their sales and remain dominant in the automotive value chain, fully controlling final assembly and powertrain production. There are substantial investments in R&D, for example, in the areas of battery technology. Depending on each of these scenarios, the business impacts on the overall automotive value chain and the relationships between the business partners will be different. In the first

scenario, increased (traditional) vehicle sales should be seen, as a result of the OEMs maintaining their market dominance – including a significant proportion of (currently) profitable combustion engines. In part, also, due to the low adoption by automotive consumers of new E-mobility technologies. In contrast, the second scenario should result in decreased traditional vehicle sales, since consumers have lost faith in the traditional OEMs, turning instead to technology-driven, new market entrants that embrace mass mobility models in collaboration with cities and infrastructure providers. This will weaken the power of the traditional OEMs in the overall value chain, for example, in relation to their raw material suppliers. From a steelmaker’s perspective, the possible scenarios also imply potentially different strategic considerations. In the first scenario above, the automotive value chain of the future is likely to remain quite similar to that of today, where OEMs continue to dominate their relationships with steel and other suppliers. The need for continued innovation in new, strong, lightweight steels will continue (perhaps albeit more slowly), with steelmakers needing to work hand-in-hand with the OEMs and

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automotive suppliers – also supporting a greater R&D focus to develop even more efficient combustion engines and improved powertrains. Since OEMs will retain strong bargaining power vis-à-vis the steel suppliers, steel companies need to ensure internal efficiencies in their own commercial and supply chain operations to be able to consistently provide differentiated service levels and remain competitive. The second scenario above is expected to drive improvements towards enabling large-scale, efficient manufacturing, with an increased focus on vehicle production cost reduction by the OEMs (for example, by maximising the use of Industry 4.0 capabilities and robots). These cost pressures will also ripple through the value chain, stimulating deeper collaboration between OEMs – in order to share the burden of such developments and manufacturing costs. The bargaining power of traditional OEMs will be somewhat weakened and the business relationships that steelmakers have traditionally held will change. There will be a need for steelmakers to develop new partnerships and collaboration models with the new market entrants. Furthermore, the threat of material substitution in vehicles away from steel could renew in its intensity, as the new

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market entrants explore other options for multi-material usage. How global economies will eventually recover from the current crisis and the effects on the future evolution of the automotive market are still to be understood. Indeed, the full impacts will probably take some considerable time to become clear. What is important, however, is that steel companies already start to consider potential market evolution scenarios, such as those outlined above, to align their own product development and investment strategies for the next five to 10 years. For example, market

AUTOMOTIVE

demand for the adoption rate of electric vehicles and E-mobility drivetrains will be influenced by a wide variety of factors, such as battery price and production capacity developments, the willingness of consumers to pay extra, governmental regulations and oil price developments. From a steel producer’s perspective, this adoption will also be dependent upon the availability of advanced steel materials capable of providing the necessary rigidity for battery pack enclosures and overall vehicle structural strength to provide crash compression resistance, coupled with mass reduction. Such materials will require continued, significant investments by

steelmakers (in partnership with automotive producers) to develop the necessary steel grades, including 3rd generation AHSS, to achieve the needed material performance. In turn, such new steel developments will also require further investments on the side of the automotive OEMs, because of changes required in stamping and welding processes and facilities. The steel industry will hopefully weather the current crisis, as it has done many times in the past and be able to rebuild itself as demand for steel in the automotive sector and other downstream markets recovers. Beyond this, the industry also needs to ensure that it is ready to meet the future demands of its key market segments, such as automotive. By exploring different potential scenarios, steel producers can be better prepared to take decisions that will impact assets, people and the supply structure of their value chains – the future does not lie entirely in the hands of the automotive OEMs. �

PROCESS CONTROL � page 27

And finally, the most important success factor of such a solution must be considered: the operator himself. The system must offer a simple user interface with a compelling overview of errors and alarms and fast in-depth analysis options by graphs, hyperlinks to real-time generated data of selected sensors and so on. For additional details the relevant files from the technical documentation must be available to loop-up – for example, circuit diagrams or operation manuals. The solution, therefore, must be equipped with operational know-how as well as provide an ultimate user experience. (Fig.5) Know-how management One of the most important key functionalities of such a solution is intelligent know-how management. As mentioned above, the lack of qualified personnel forces steel producers to digitalise the know-how so that high productivity is ensured ‘shift-independently’. Apart from collecting the operator’s handling of alarms and errors, it is of significant added value if the solution is equipped with anonymised data from a global database offering information from other similar steel plants, May/June 2020

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what actions could solve what error or alarm. Therefore, software providers with a large installed client base with worldwide references are preferable. Requirements The described solution of an intelligent digital assistant is rather novel. It is advisable, therefore, to introduce such a system step-by-step and usually in the mills of a large steel producer. First, you need to establish a team, which successfully uses the solution in daily business life. Then introduce the solution for all teams of the selected aggregate. Third, roll out the solution for the entire steel plant. It is necessary, therefore, that the system is scalable and that a steel manufacturer can start with a small set-up of just a couple of data sources and progress from there. Obviously, using an intelligent digital assistant offers a lot of benefits to improve product quality and productivity at the steel plant. So, the solution will be a standard product with regular upgrades, updates and releases and a contractually guaranteed support. Such a set-up will ensure a fast and successful adoption of the solution throughout the organisation. It is also possible to get started with

a similar but scaled down system, using existing signals and then adding intelligence to your production. Conclusion The fierce competition of the global steel market forces steel producers to continuously look for improvements related to product quality as well as productivity and flexibility of production. Incremental improvements can easily be determined and achieved. But especially with condition monitoring, a myriad of data create a huge amount of information, alarms and errors. An intelligent digital assistant can collect all information centrally, analyse and evaluate it, propose corrective and compensational actions and continuously grow the digitalised know-how based on operational practice and global benchmarks. The right software architecture, sound process and operational know-how, the ultimate user experience, easy scalability, a professional release management and contractually guaranteed support are the most important key success factors. And when starting the solution is rather “plugand-play”, then don’t hesitate to reach the next level of modern condition monitoring for your steel plant. � www.steeltimesint.com

18/05/2020 10:09:42


Future Steel Forum 2020 has landed!

This year’s speakers include: Sergey Detyuk, CEO, Metinvest Digital

24-25 November 2020 Grandior Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic To register, visit https://www.futuresteelforum.com

There is still time to submit an abstract. For further details, email the programme director on matthewmoggridge@quartzltd.com cover forum.indd, read OK MM....indd 1

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PERSPECTIVES: CLAYTON ENGINEERING

Zero emission solutions UK-based Clayton Equipment has supplied three new Hybrid+TM diesel CBD90 locomotives to Tata Steel’s Port Talbot operation and recently secured an order for two more. Clearly on a roll, the company’s Clive Hannaford* answers this month’s questions

1. How are things going at CLAYTON EQUIPMENT? Very well with unprecedented demand for our Hybrid Shunting locomotives.

8. What are your views on Industry 4.0 and steelmaking? Not relevant to our product supply.

2. Is the steel industry keeping you busy? The steel industry is an important part of our business, and even in the difficult market conditions, Tata Steel is investing in clean technology.

11. Where does CLAYTON EQUIPMENT lead the field in terms of steel production technology? Clayton Equipment is not directly involved in steel production technology, however it does work with its customers in the industry to develop bespoke solutions for them and is now recognised as the world’s leader on zero emission innovative shunting locomotives. Tata Steel UK is a major customer taking full advantage of this.

3. What is your view on the current state of the global steel industry? Difficult, just like any other industry, the steel industry is subjected to the effects of important changes in the global economy. 4. In which sector of the steel industry does CLAYTON EQUIPMENT mostly conduct its business? In the steel production sector. 5. Where in the world are you busiest at present? UK and EU. 6. Can you discuss any major steel contracts you are currently working on? We have a relationship with Tata Steel UK, one of the largest steel producers in Europe. We have supplied three new innovative Hybrid+™ Diesel CBD90 locomotives to Tata’s Port Talbot operation and have just secured an order for two additional Hybrid+™ Diesel CBD90 locomotives. 7. Where does CLAYTON EQUIPMENT stand on the aluminium versus steel argument? No position either way.

10. How quickly has the steel industry responded to ‘green politics’ in terms of making the production process more environmentally friendly and are they succeeding or fighting a losing battle? Reaction has been quick, although it is difficult considering the process of steel making.

9. In your dealings with steel producers, are you finding that they are looking to companies like CLAYTON EQUIPMENT to offer them solutions in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability? If so, what can you offer them? Yes, Clayton offers the industry zero emission solutions which realise significant commercial benefits from reduced operation and maintenance costs. Additional benefits for their investment in greener technology include reduced emissions from the cleanest diesel engines, reduced carbon footprint, reduced noise levels and increased reliability. Clayton Equipment also provides the additional benefit of UK-based customer service support.

12. How do you view CLAYTON EQUIPMENT’s development over the short-to-medium term in relation to the global steel industry? Following the success from the initial contract to supply three hybrid zero emission locomotives to Tata Steel, the company has now ordered a further two Hybrid locomotives. This has sparked global interest in our operation from the steel industry and we are looking to develop similar relationships in the short-to-medium term. 13. China dominates global crude steel production and is accountable for almost half of world production. How should the industry react to this situation? The steel industry should continue to invest to reduce costs and emissions and deliver on service.

* Managing director, Clayton Equipment May/June 2020

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PERSPECTIVES: CLAYTON ENGINEERING

14. What is CLAYTON EQUIPMENT’s experience of the Chinese steel industry? None.

seeking to obtain a larger slice of a stagnant market. Clayton’s locomotives can significantly help to reduce the operating costs for steel producers.

15. How optimistic are you for the global steel industry going forward and what challenges face global producers in the short-to-medium term? The steel industry is not, by definition, a growth industry, although there are individual companies that can fit within that category. It is a mature sector, where the remaining global players are generally

16. What exhibitions and conferences will CLAYTON EQUIPMENT be attending in over the next six months? None. 17. Looking ahead, how would CLAYTON ENGINEERING aim to improve the lot of the global steel industry? In the current economic climate when the

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outlook for the steel industry is challenging, producers face difficult choices. To cut costs to remain competitive, but at the same time, producers must continue to grow, to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape, and to make the right investments to stay ahead of their rivals. We need to ensure the global market is fair, so all producers have the same opportunities to succeed and grow. By working with our customers in the steel industry we see our role as enabling them to reduce cost and realise other commercial benefits from investing in green technology and service availability. �

May/June 2020

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HISTORY

Merthyr Tydfil – UK’s iron metropolis Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorganshire, South Wales, was at first a small agricultural settlement on the River Taff, about 23 miles (38km) north-west of Cardiff. In 1759, all was to change with the arrival of ironmasters from Coalbrookdale in Shropshire to the north and from the Weald of Sussex to the southeast, to establish ironworks there, an industry which lasted for the next 171 years. By Tim Smith* COAL was the key attraction to bring the ironmasters to South Wales, following the success in 1709 of Abraham Darby’s first use of coke at Coalbrookdale to fire furnaces rather than charcoal, an increasingly scarce commodity as demand for iron grew. South Wales was not new to ironmaking, there were 21 charcoal-fired furnaces in the region, the earliest possibly having been established in 1553. Three were close to Merthyr, Hirwaun (1757) a few miles to the west, Brecon (1720) to the north and, the oldest, Pontyrhun (1625) to the south. Thus the area can claim over 300 years of blast furnace ironmaking. Four major works were established around Merthyr between 1759 and 1788 to meet a growing demand for cast iron and refined wrought iron. Such was the activity that the town became known as ‘iron metropolis’ in the 18th and 19th centuries. Counter to this, the labyrinth of flames and fumes from the works emitted all day long, every day, led it to also be named ‘Little Hell’. Of the four new ironworks, Dowlais was the first to be built, and the most successful

Remains of Cyfarthfa ironworks furnaces

Of the four new ironworks, Dowlais was the first to be built, and the most successful in terms of length of time in existence, operating for 171 years from 1759 until finally closing in 1930. At closure it was owned by Guest Keen & Nettlefolds (GKN), a name associated with the works since 1767 when John Guest became manager. Plymouth ironworks, was the second to be built. Established in 1763, the name has nothing to do with the city of Plymouth on the Devon-Cornwall border of South West England, but derives its name from being built on land owned by the Earl of Plymouth. It survived until 1880, its demise largely due to its slow adoption of new technologies. Cyfarthfa ironworks was the third to be built in 1765 and survived until 1919 with the final three years being a reopening during WWI. By this time, it had been taken over by GKN, the owners of its main competitor, Dowlais ironworks. The fourth works was Penydarren, initially established in 1788 as a finery forge using the puddling process, with two blast furnaces added by 1796 producing 4,100 tons a year. It finally closed in 1875. One claim to fame is that a nine-mile stretch of horse-drawn tramway that it built in 1802 was where the Cornishman, Richard Trevithick, first tested his highpressure steam engine

* Consulting editor STI and a member of the Historical Metallurgy Society

in 1804 hauling 10 tons of iron between Penydarren and the Glamorganshire Canal – cut in 1790 by the four companies – to take iron from Merthyr to the port of Cardiff. This was the first railway ever to use steam traction. Much of the success, and eventual demise of each of these works, was due to global events. War is always a driver for new technology and cannon and shot were in demand during four major campaigns during the life of these works; The Seven Years War (1756-1763), The American Revolutionary War (1767-1783), The Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815) and The Crimean War (1853 – 1856). Indeed, Nelson visited the Cyfarthfa ironworks to commend the quality of its guns and shot. They also benefitted in times of peace with the growth of railways across the world where wrought iron rails were in great demand. In 1821, rails for the Stockton and Darlington Railway were produced at Dowlais, while the Liverpool and Manchester railway was supplied by Penydarren. Cyfarthfa and Dowlais were the main suppliers of rail during the track building boom of the 1830s-40s with new capacity being installed at both works to supply this growing market. Foreign orders included the Baltimore and Susquihanna Railway (1835), Berlin and Leipzig Railway (1836), St Petersburg-Pauloffsky Railway (1836) and the New Orleans and Nashville Railway (1836). Rails were also supplied to the East India Company as well as numerous domestic companies. Of the four works, only the Cyfarthfa furnaces remain as extant ruins today. This works, and its use of the Welsh fining method to convert grey iron to white prior to refining in Cort’s Puddling Process, was described in Steel Times International July/ Aug 2016 p40.� www.steeltimesint.com

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19/05/2020 09:23:42


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Profile for Quartz Business Media

Steel Times International May June 2020  

Steel Times International May June 2020