The two slab re-heating furnaces at Tata Steel UK’s Hot Rolling Mill in Port Talbot are the first digitally fired furnaces in the world to use an innovative laser technology, which will improve product quality and consistency while further cutting the site’s energy use and carbon footprint. Eight laser paths are strategically placed on each furnace to measure the combustion gases zonally above and below the steel slabs as they move through the furnace and heat to the optimal temperature. This ground-breaking work was the brainchild of Tata Steel Process Technologist Mr Jonathan Richards, who worked with a market leading technology company OnPoint Digital Solutions, a Koch Engineered Solutions company to perfect the energy-efficient solution. Mr Jon said “Heating slabs to the correct temperature is critical to ensure the metallurgical properties match the requirement of our customers. Not only that, but with a system that allows us to monitor and control our use of gases more accurately, we can save energy, save costs and reduce our carbon footprint. We’ve installed laser sensors, which measure, at a molecular level, the combustion products and the temperature profile of the furnace to produce live visual data. As beams of light pass through the furnace atmosphere, carbon monoxide, water vapour and oxygen absorb the light. It is this light loss that indicates the volume of each constituent molecule. From the percentage of each molecule, we can infer the combustion efficiency of the furnace.” Mr Jon added “If there is too much air, the furnace will cool leading to increased gas consumption as the furnace fires harder to achieve the right temperatures. Excess air also increases yield losses though oxidation. Excess fuel levels lead to incomplete combustion, producing high levels of carbon monoxide and the unburned fuel is wasted.” The new technology can help narrow down issues to any of the 56 burners in each furnace; accurate burner performance will lead to more efficient planning ahead of maintenance stops, cleaning, and calibrations. The next phase of the project is to make the process a closed loop operation with the system detecting anomalies and automatically adjusting the furnace gas flows to ensure optimum energy efficiencies. OnPoint’s ZoloSCAN TM Technology delivers unique laser-based combustion monitoring and diagnostic capabilities for ultra-harsh environments to optimize the yield, efficiency, and safety of combustion applications.