Austrian steelmaker voestalpine’s Steel Division claims to be a step further towards increasing energy and resource efficiency at its steel production facility in Linz.

After a 111-day period for repairs, blast furnace A, in which two-thirds of the company’s entire annual pig iron volume of 5Mt is produced, has been successfully restarted after a EUR180 million renovation.

The relining of the large blast furnace, which was originally built in 1977 and most recently upgraded in 2004, was undertaken between June and September this year. All refractory bricks were replaced and all peripheral plant and equipment, such as the Cowper stove, gas supply, and dedusting systems, were modernised. According to voestalpine, new digital measuring and control instruments were installed.

Customers were involved at an early stage in the process and the company consistently built up a stock of relevant pre-material supplies so that it was possible to make deliveries as usual during the repair phase.

“The comprehensive upgrades to blast furnace A are important in safeguarding the future of the site in Linz, and that of its about 11,000 employees, for the coming decade. At the same time, the high technical standard of this blast furnace is also the basis for supplying our processing sites with high-quality steel grades” said Wolfgang Eder, chairman of the management board.

Parallel to the blast furnace A project in Linz, one of two blast furnaces of the metal engineering division in Leoben-Donawitz also underwent interim repairs. After 64 workdays, the furnace, which is responsible for around half of the 1.5Mt/yr of pig iron production at the Styrian site, has returned to normal operations. The costs for the repairs, which are routinely undertaken on each of the two furnaces at the site once every four years, amounted this time to the comparatively low sum of EUR 14 million.

“While modernising blast furnace A we upgraded all the process steps to the state-of-the-art in order to achieve even better results in terms of resource conservation and material consumption. We are doing this by using completely new digital capabilities as well,” said Herbert Eibensteiner, member of the management board of voestalpine AG and head of the steel division.

The applied technologies employed included 3D radar to determine the optimum distribution of raw materials and automated temperature measurements within the blast furnace. Special simulation software, which mapped all the plant and equipment as well as process scenarios, was used to plan the relining. This tool will be used in future during ongoing operations at the blast furnace.

Around 160 employees in voestalpine’s core team worked to prepare and realize what the company is describing as a major project. A total of 1,000 people were employed at the site for over a year.