Voestalpine modernises blast furnace 21 December 2018

Completing the general renovation of ‘Blast Furnace A’ has brought the voestalpine steel division a further step towards increasing energy and resource efficiency at its steel production site in Linz, Austria.

After 111 days of renovation the furnace, in which two-thirds of the entire annual pig iron volume of five million tonnes is produced, has successfully restarted operations.

At a total cost of around €180 million, the relining project involved completely replacing the extremely wear-resistant interior lining of the blast furnace, as well as modernising all other facilities used in operating the blast furnace. At around the same time, interim repairs were carried out on one of the two blast furnaces in Leoben-Donawitz, Austria.

“The comprehensive upgrades to ‘Blast Furnace A’ are important in safeguarding the future of the site in Linz, and that of its around 11,000 employees, for the coming decade. At the same time, the high technical standard of this blast furnace is also the basis for supplying our processing sites with high-quality steel grades,” explained Wolfgang Eder, chairman of the management board of voestalpine AG.

The relining of the large blast furnace, originally built in 1977 and most recently extensively upgraded in 2004, was undertaken between June to September 2018. In addition to replacing the refractory bricks the project included the modernisation of all peripheral plant and equipment, such as the Cowper stove, gas supply, and dedusting systems. The focus also lay in installing new digital measuring and control instruments. By involving the customers at an early stage and consistently building up a stock of the relevant pre-material supplies, it was possible to deliver as usual during the renovation phase.

“While modernising ‘Blast Furnace A’, we upgraded all process steps to state of the art in order to achieve even better results in terms of resource conservation and material consumption. We are doing this by using completely new digital capabilities as well,” explains Herbert Eibensteiner, member of the management board of voestalpine AG and head of the steel division.

The applied technologies include 3D radar to determine the optimum distribution of raw materials and automated temperature measurements within the blast furnace. Around 160 employees in the core voestalpine team worked to prepare and realise this major project, while at the same time a total of 1,000 people were employed at the site for over a year. Special simulation software, which mapped all the plant and equipment as well as process scenarios, was used to plan the relining. In future this tool will also be used during ongoing operations at the blast furnace.

Parallel to the major project in Linz, one of the two blast furnaces belonging to the metal engineering division in Leoben-Donawitz also underwent interim repairs. After 64 workdays, the furnace, which is responsible for around half of the 1.5 million tonnes of annual pig iron production at the Styrian site, returned to normal operations. The costs for the repairs, which are routinely undertaken on each of the two furnaces at the site once every four years, amounted this time to the comparatively low sum of €14 million.

As the largest Group division in terms of revenue, the voestalpine steel division is the first point of contact for major automotive manufacturers and suppliers when it comes to strategic product developments and offers support to its customers around the world. It is also one of the most important partners to the European white goods and mechanical engineering industries. In the business year 2017/18, the division generated revenue of €4.8 billion and reported an operating result (EBITDA) of €908 million. It has around 11,000 employees worldwide.

Operating globally, voestalpine has around 500 group companies and locations in more than 50 countries on all five continents. In the business year 2017/18, the Group generated revenue of around €13 billion, with an operating result (EBITDA) of almost €2 billion; it has around 51,600 employees worldwide.

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