Imatra's Leap Toward Greener Steel

Ovako
OvakoImage Source: Ovako

Synopsis:

Imatra steel mill has significantly upgraded its bloom furnace, cutting CO₂ emissions by about 25% and reducing natural gas use. This modernization, part of the mill's push towards carbon-neutral steel production, also sets the stage for future use of hydrogen in their processes.

Article:

The steel industry often grapples with environmental concerns, but the Imatra steel mill has taken a bold step forward. With an investment of around $3 million, the mill has modernized its bloom furnace, thanks to the expertise of the Swedish company Linde. This summer project was more than just a routine upgrade; it was a significant environmental stride.

The revamping of the bloom furnace has resulted in a substantial decrease in natural gas consumption, by about 25%. This is not a minor achievement considering the bloom furnace is responsible for one-third of the mill's natural gas usage. Consequently, this reduction translates into a 25% drop in CO₂ emissions from the heating process, and a projected reduction in nitrogen oxides by over 50%.

Preliminary results are promising, as Otto Kankaanpää, the Development Engineer, points out that the NOx emissions have been halved. Precise results will be confirmed with comprehensive testing, ensuring that the upgrades align with the mill's commitment to lower emissions and comply with stringent air quality permits.

Ovako, the company that owns the Imatra mill, is on a mission to achieve carbon-neutral steel production. While the ultimate goal is ambitious, the company is offsetting its current carbon footprint through carbon credits, intending to decrease reliance on these offsets as technological advancements are integrated into their processes.

The modernization also prepares the mill for a hydrogen-powered future. The bloom furnace, essential in the steelmaking process for heating the steel blooms evenly, now boasts 27 new burners across 8 heat zones, significantly enhancing the quality of heating and, by extension, the steel.

Project Manager Tomi Karvinen shares the success of implementing the new furnace system within a tight schedule, highlighting the improvement in heating efficiency due to the strategic repositioning of the burners. Moreover, the system's readiness to switch to hydrogen as a fuel source is a forward-thinking move, anticipating the transition to even more sustainable energy sources.

The mill's commitment to safety and quality hasn't been overshadowed by the environmental focus. With a modern safety system that features automated controls and thorough monitoring, the mill has elevated the security of its operations.

This eco-conscious transformation involved over 30 regional and national companies and was partially funded by Business Finland, which contributed approximately $700,000 in energy support.

Conclusion:

The Imatra steel mill has taken significant steps to modernize its operations with a focus on sustainability. By upgrading the bloom furnace, they have not only reduced their environmental impact but have also set the stage for future adoption of alternative fuels like hydrogen. This commitment to environmental responsibility and quality improvement serves as a benchmark for the industry and a clear path forward for responsible steel production.

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