Flanders Metals Day at ArcelorMittal
On the 20th of September, 70 of the Flanders Metals Valley members, were welcomed for an exceptional site visit at ArcelorMittal Belgium in Gent to discover multiple aspects of steelmaking.
After a short introduction movie on the production cycle of the worlds best recycled metal, we were invited to follow their excellent guides to discover that an integrated steel plant is today much more than a raw material transformation factory. On their 10km² of site they obviously convert iron ore together with coal into high quality steel products, but they have also become a benchmark in creating their own complete eco-system to make steel production efficient and durable.
The bus tour brought us to state-of-the-art galvanizing lines were no gram of metal, neither steel or zinc, is put to waste, as it is ultimately recycled within the plant or with their own suppliers. A short stop at the cokes plant clearly showed the challenge is to make optimal use of all waste gases and dust to ensure that the environmental footprint is minimized.
Hence we visited their two newest installations Steelanol and Torero. Both new by-product and waste recycling processes invest in making sure that either external or internal sources of material flow can be put at service of the steel production itself or serve as primary product for other industries like chemistry. E.g., in the Steelanol plant, where bacteria are converting the CO and H2 in the furnace gases to ethanol, which is a base molecule for a circular chemical industry.
ArcelorMittal Gent has succeeded in producing 5.5 MTonnes of steel with a limited waste footprint of less than 5tonnes on annual basis.
We ended our tour with a walk in the hot rolling plant to get a notion of the immense force and amount of water which is required to create the steel products we use every day.
With a large CO2 emission intrinsically related to the current blast furnace process where iron ore is reduced with carbon, it remains their biggest challenge to invest in processes like DRI (Direct Reduced Iron) and Electric Arc Furnaces which have worldwide never been operated at such a large scale as needed for a 5 M ton flat steel producing plant. The use of electric furnaces will come along with a higher amount of scrap, containing higher amounts of residual elements. Thus, the metallurgical routes need to be adapted to make all these changes compatible with high added value products, differentiating the plant from commodity producers. The use of renewable energy like wind and solar with the biggest solar roof in Belgium is already strongly promoted and heat recovery is shared with the local community.
It was an impressive overview of how an integrated steel production site has transformed into a durable eco-system that is aware of serving as an example for introduction of sustainable technologies where literally not a single kg of metal is wasted. Steel making is no longer only about ores and coal, but also about water, bacteria, nutrients, wood, minerals, scrap and so much more.
A big thank you to ArcelorMittal sharing their views and to our tour guides for the impressive numbers and inspiring stories.