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Steel Manufacturer Reduces Energy Consumption by 3 Percent with Energy Management System

System leverages integrated control and information from Rockwell Automation to collect, visualize and contextualize data

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  • Energy costs and a lack of automation impacted a major steel producer’s financial profitability
  • Facility management needed to reduce energy costs and consumption, reduce gas flaring, and quickly achieve ROI


  • Energy Intelligence System - Automated, comprehensive system leverages the FactoryTalk software suite
  • Collects, analyzes and reports on data with actionable information, enabling operators to make real-time process changes
  • Manages access to automation assets


  • Reduced Energy Consumption and Costs - Reduced energy costs by 3 percent annually
  • Boosted bottom line by 1.35 percent
  • Reduced electricity consumption by 3 percent
  • Achieved full ROI in six months
  • Reduced overall fuel consumption by 2 percent

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.

Energy-Management Challenges

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.

Better Decisions with Energy Intelligence

The steel manufacturer contacted the automation suppliers of its existing, disparate systems to find one that could provide an energy solution for its entire facility.

It chose to work with Rockwell Automation because the automation company’s Rockwell Software® energy intelligence solutions were able to integrate most smoothly with existing control and enterprise systems, and connect to the plant’s 45 to 50 remote terminal units.

The steel manufacturer’s engineering team first installed Logix-based programmable automation controllers (PACs) from Rockwell Automation across the network to aggregate data. With the control foundation in place, the team then implemented an energy intelligence system to better gather, report and analyze that data.

FactoryTalk® Historian software collects data from across the steel manufacturing system. The system also uses FactoryTalk VantagePoint® software as an advanced portal to report and analyze data – turning it into actionable information. The software details pressure, flow and temperature trends to help plant operators better understand what happened in the days and weeks before, and even predict what will happen in the days ahead.

FactoryTalk AssetCentre software helps the team control access and manage changes to automation assets. Within the application, operators can view records of which personnel made changes and when, and revert back to previous settings or make additional changes.

With the Rockwell Software energy intelligence solution, we can pull reports at any time, any day. We’re better prepared to make process changes that immediately impact steel and byproduct production and keep our energy use low.

The energy-management system – leveraging the historian and analytics software – identifies gaps between energy, generation, transmission and distribution, and guides energy management staff to optimize use. Personnel can see production data and information in real time, including fuel values, and short- and long-term trends. Operators can more effectively control steel production and modify gas production, oxygen levels and other factors. They can track the impact of different types of raw materials on production of both steel and gas byproducts, and use this information to help make sure they purchase the most beneficial raw materials.

The data gathered within the system is analyzed and included in multiple reports. A gas consumption report alerts operators and plant management to any spikes in fuel consumption. An energy utilization report provides analytics on gas generation; available liquid stocks of argon, nitrogen gas and oxygen; and daily consumption of liquefied petroleum gas. Operators can also pull ad hoc reports via the FactoryTalk VantagePoint portal to provide data to all stakeholders as needed. Each of the reports feeds into the energy-management system.

“Our energy reports are critical because our operations contain continuous chemical reactions,” said the steel manufacturer’s vice president of energy. “With the Rockwell Software energy intelligence solution, we can pull reports at any time, any day. We’re better prepared to make process changes that immediately impact steel and byproduct production and keep our energy use low.”

Less Consumption and Flaring Drives Savings

With the new energy intelligence system, the company reduced its energy costs by 3 percent annually – boosting its bottom line by 1.35 percent and reducing electricity consumption by 3 percent. Full ROI was achieved in just six months.

The company has also reduced its fuel consumption overall by 2 percent. The plant’s team has identified wasteful uses of energy and nonproductive fuel supplies. For example, the team began switching rollers to idle when not in use after understanding the energy-use impact of high initial torque in conveying systems that move steel in and out of furnaces.

Additionally, the steel manufacturing company has reduced gas flaring from 5 to 6 percent, down to 1.5 percent, which means the flaring decreased from 200 gigacalories (or gcal per hour) to 30 gcal per hour. This resulted in an hourly financial savings of USD$3,200.

With data-supplied analysis of gas generation and consumption, the steel manufacturer learned that the small fluctuations in both cannot be completely managed, so the team began using sinks to dump and withdrawal fuels on short turnarounds. Trend reports alert operators when it’s necessary to divert excess gas byproduct to the sink within the next hour, allowing the company to continue optimizing gas consumption and avoid inefficient uses.

“We’ve seen significant success using the FactoryTalk solution. More importantly, we’ve been able to identify what other processes need to be optimized and we’re working to improve them,” said the vice president of energy.

The team at the plant aims to reduce gas flaring to under 0.5 percent, or 5.45 gcal, for even further savings, and is expanding the energy intelligence system to capture all of the plant’s 2,100 parameters. In addition, the steel manufacturer is rolling out similar energy programs at its other locations to truly connect and optimize production across the company.

The results mentioned above are specific to this company’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.

FactoryTalk, Rockwell Software and VantagePoint are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.


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