A hot metal treatment plant at Kobe Steel's Kakogawa Works in western Japan is now operational, according to the company.

The plant was constructed to improve the production system at Kakogawa in order to expand sales of high value-added steel products with a view to increasing cost competitiveness, the company said.

Hot metal treatment plants are designed to remove impurities, such as sulfur and phosphorus, from molten iron.

Kobe Steel's special steel wire rod and bar, automotive high-strength steel sheet and steel plate for the energy sector all require a high degree of cleanliness, highlighting the importance of the new hot metal treatment plant.

The 30 billion Yen investment features two Kanbara reactors for desulfurisation and one dephosphorisation furnace. The Kanbara reactor uses a stirring method to desulfurise molten iron. An impeller stirs the molten iron and the agitation removes the sulfur, Kobe Steel explained.

The new reactor and furnace, plus existing equipment at the Kakogawa Works, enable most of the molten ore to undergo hot metal treatment and enable Kobe Steel to increase production of its high end range of products.

The new plant is claimed to increase reaction efficiency during desulfurisation and dephosphorisation, thereby reducing consumption of auxiliary materials for refining and improving yield. "The new facility will enable Kakogawa to save approximately 6 billion yen annually," claims Kobe.