NLMK Lipetsk, the flagship site of Russian steelmaker NLMK Group, has started hot testing at its new furnace for preheating slabs before rolling at its Mill 2000. The new reheating furnace will increase NLMK Lipetsk’s hot-rolled steel output by 110kt, reduce energy consumption by 50%, halve air emissions and boost furnace productivity by 23% to 320 tonnes/hr (2.25Mt/yr).

The new walking beam reheat furnace has replaced the outdated pusher-type furnace and comes complete with an advanced control system based on a learning mathematical algorithm that adjusts the heating process to steel grades without human intervention. Walking slabs along through the furnace with moving beams eliminates the possibility of surface defects and improves slab reheating parameters, claims NLMK.

According to Konstantin Lagutin, NLMK Group vice president for Investment Projects, said the construction of the new furnace was a key Strategy 2022 project. "It will debottleneck our hot-strip operations and bolster our output of high quality hot rolled coil. With the new unit up and running, all of our steel for hot-rolling will go through processing in new generation high performance resource-saving furnaces,” he said.

Three new generation furnaces were installed at NLMK Lipetsk's hot-rolling operation in 2004-2011. The new furnace is the fourth to be added, claims NLMK. With its launch, the last obsolete pusher-type reheating furnace will be decommissioned.

Reheating Furnace No. 2 was assembled in 10 months, one month ahead of schedule, with no hot-rolling process interruptions. A full Building Information Modelling (BIM) cycle was used for furnace design, construction and assembly. This technology enabled the company to create a digital twin of the future unit and the construction process, to pre-emptively eliminate potential errors, and to optimize the scope and schedule of construction works at an early design stage.

Total project capex amounted to RUB 4.3 billion (US$66). Ramp-up to full capacity is planned before the end of 2019.