Steeled for Growth
After a booming decade, global steel manufacturing contracted sharply in 2008 and 2009 as construction and automobile markets reacted to the global recession. However, one global steel manufacturer was able to reduce its energy costs while continuing to produce high-quality steel, and actually grew throughout the global recession.
The manufacturer is based in South Asia and today has a production capacity of 18 million tonnes per annum (MTPA). At one of its Asian plants – which is among the largest steel-manufacturing sites in the world – the company conducts ore beneficiation, coke making and iron production. The integrated plant separates iron ore from raw taconite and processes coal into coking coal to fuel iron-making furnaces. Then, using hot air to combust coking coal, iron is derived from raw ore and oxygen is added to that iron, turning it into steel.
The steel manufacturing process creates a high volume of valuable byproduct gases, including methane and ammonium sulfate. Before 2008, the plant produced an average of 7.5 million cubic meters of gas fuel per year. Around 90 percent of this gas was converted into electrical power that was reused by the plant, and around 10 percent was sold.
While the plant’s continuous steel manufacturing processes and energy inputs were fully monitored, its energy usage monitoring system was not fully integrated with plant operations or automated. With energy costs comprising 40 to 45 percent of the total cost of steel production, a 1 percent reduction in energy consumption could improve the bottom line by 0.45 percent.
The company’s energy-management staff of 225 workers, led by the vice president of energy management, developed an energy management system to gain more insight, but the team needed more data on energy production and use. They also needed certain data sets critical for each role, from plant operator to vice president, and data insights that would show which process variables impact productivity.
The company also wanted to more efficiently consume fuel. There was accounting for all energy uses, but the company was not fully optimizing them. It wasn’t able to identify nonproductive fuel supplies or equipment that could be idled to save fuel.
In addition, valuable gas byproducts produced in large volumes and consumed at widely fluctuating rates, could not be held in reserve. When gases weren’t being used, they were flared to prevent pollution, which also added costs. The steel manufacturer needed to reduce gas flaring down from the 2008 rate of 5 to 6 percent or reduce the gas production.
To achieve these goals, the company needed one comprehensive, automated controls and information system that could turn the energy-management system into a plantwide energy-scheduling and accounting solution. The automated system would need to easily integrate with 32 existing systems and gather data from 700 parameters across the 10-by-10 kilometer plant area. The company also needed a fast ROI to reduce financial impacts during the global crisis.