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ESTAD – Europe’s largest technical steel conference in Düsseldorf
The second European Steel Technology and Application Days (2nd ESTAD) took place from 15 – 19 June as part of the METEC metallurgy trade fair in Düsseldorf. More than 600 presentations provided about 1,350 participants with information on the latest ideas and developments in steel production technologies, steel materials and steel use.
The programme impressed with numerous highlights. The presentations were aligned upon the various process steps – from iron production to surface treatment technologies and steel application. The topic of energy efficiency, highly relevant for the sector, received ample attention. We have summarised some of the developments in these fields below.
Iron productionThe process route via the blast furnace and converter dominates, representing about 74 per cent of production worldwide and approximately 60 per cent in Europe. Hot metal is produced via this route on the basis of agglomerated iron ores (sinter, pellets) and lump ores, as well as coke or coal as reducing agents, and oxygen. Blast furnaces produced about 1.2 billion tonnes of hot metal worldwide in 2014.
At many sites, the necessary coke nowadays comes from modern coking plants that are operated in line with the highest environmental standards. Construction of Battery 1 of the coking plant at Hüttenwerke Krupp Mannesmann demonstrates this progress.
Development has also continued, however, regarding the blast furnaces themselves. The consumption of reducing agents has thus undergone consistent optimisation. In order to reduce coke consumption, nearly all European furnaces now inject pulverised coal. In various countries outside Europe natural gas is being used as a reducing agent. The average coke consumption of the blast furnaces in Germany and western Europe is now only 330 kg per tonne of hot metal. For comparison: over 800 kg of coke was needed to produce one tonne of hot metal in the early 1960s.
The direct reduction and smelting reduction processes are alternative ore reduction processes that aim to produce iron without coke. In the case of direct reduction, the oxygen is removed from the iron ore to produce a solid product called sponge iron (direct reduced iron, DRI), that is then melted in electric arc furnaces to produce crude steel. About 76 million tonnes of DRI was produced worldwide in 2014. Use of the smelting reduction process is currently considerably lower. Up to now, only eleven plants operate with the so-called Corex and Finex processes, producing roughly seven million tonnes of hot metal in 2014.
Quantum-type electric arc furnaces (Primetals), among others, have proved effective for steel production. The aggregate, installed at TYASA in Mexico, combines tried-and-tested shaft technology for pre-heating scrap with a new scrap charging process. Energy consumption is 280 kilowatt-hours per tonne – considerably lower than with conventional electric arc furnaces. Total CO2 emissions should be up to 30 per cent lower per tonne of crude steel compared to conventional aggregates.
Salzgitter AG already commissioned the world’s first belt casting technology (BCT®) plant at its Peine site in December 2012. The joint development of this new process – by Germany’s Salzgitter AG, SMS Siemag AG and the Clausthal University of Technology – has completed a highly promising step towards thinstrip casting. The process enables energy-saving and resource-conserving production of new high-strength steels with extremely high energy absorption properties. The new process is to be used to produce so-called high strength ductility (HSD®) steels. The process’s technical feasibility has already been demonstrated during the ongoing trial phase and the first HSD® melts have been cast.
Environmental considerations are also driving many developments in forming technology. Designs of forming plants and processes are aiming for maximum possible efficiency regarding the use of energy, raw materials and other materials.The shortening of process chains is a trend that takes this thinking into account. In addition to the proven compact strip production (CSP) plants, which have already been offering flexible use for several years, endless strip production (ESP) plants should be mentioned here as a more recent development. Both processes are characterised by high energy efficiency because they exploit heat from the casting process for rolling.
The production of the high-strength steels used, for example, in automotive light weight construction, presents new challenges for the operators of hot and cold rolling mills. The approach of comprehensively optimising the forming process and material properties is being taken in order to expand the process window or equip plants for this process.
Steel materials and their application
Interesting projects regarding steel materials and their application were presented during the ESTAD. A new construction concept for self-supporting light-construction free-form structures offers the possibility of combining load-bearing as well as function and design of the building envelope in a two-layer structure. Developing damage models helps reduce the costs for planning, designing, producing and learning how to use deep-drawing tools.
Energy and the environment
The contributions in the fields of energy and the environment were highly varied. The contributions focused on energy examined, in particular, energy efficiency, and thus the reduction of CO2 emissions. The use of heat recovery on electric arc furnaces by means of an organic rankine cycle (ORC) plant allows the waste heat to be directly converted into electricity and minimises electricity purchases for the aggregate. Conversion of the CO2 generated during steel production into chemical products such as methane was also examined.
Current developments in the field of Industry 4.0 were, of course, also considered at ESTAD. Whereby “smart” steel production is increasingly based on the evaluation of large amounts of data (so-called big data). This, too, optimises the process and ideally saves energy too.
Many of the contributions on environmental and energy aspects involved a holistic approach that was more strongly directed towards resource and energy efficiency than towards preventing individual negative effects. Corresponding overview presentations were dedicated to, for example, the most effective prevention of emissions, the closing of material cycles, the improvement of yields, or the multiple use of water and prevention of waste water. Both concepts and concrete solution proposals were presented.
With about 1,350 participants and over 600 presentations, the 2nd ESTAD was a complete success. The numerous presentations demonstrated that the steel industry is innovative and continuously makes efforts to further optimise its processes. And our colleagues were also active within the framework of METEC. At the stand shared with the Stahleisen Publishing House one could also find out about the activities of the Steel Institute VDEh.