The lifetime of a blast furnace, which is essentially an oven that produces industrial metals, has a big impact on the competitiveness of a steel plant due to the high investment costs associated with its renewal. It is vital to keep an eye on the hearth or bottom of the furnace as its condition is key and directly influences productivity, hot metal quality and the overall performance of the blast furnace. Therefore, it is necessary to understand phenomena in the hearth, envisage potential changes and develop advanced supervision systems.
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Started in September 2003, ENHANCED BF aimed to do just the above. A 42-month Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) project with â¬1.3 million funding from the European Commission, ENHANCED BF was coordinated by Betriebsforschungsinstitut des VDEh (BFI) in Germany. Its partners include 2 research centres, 4 steel plants and 1 university spanning several countries including Germany, Finland, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
"ENHANCED BF improved the evaluation of various blast furnace data, analysed samples taken inside the blast furnace and developed several new measuring techniques," said project representative Dr.-Ing. Rongshan Lin. "The project also saw new supervision systems being set up with the ultimate aim of improving working conditions and reducing operational risks."
Advanced hearth supervision and management systems were developed as a result of ENHANCED BF. Improvements included the detection of rapid disturbances and the determination of damage in the hearth itself. These new findings have been translated into practical methodologies and recommendations, ready for industrial use.
The results have increased blast furnace life, stability and security. A higher productivity and a lower fuel consumption is now commonplace and contributes to the sustainable development of the European steel industry. In fact, European blast furnaces are now rated by many as world leaders in the field .
Due to the improved supervision system, more accurate information about wear conditions is at hand meaning risks of a breakthrough of blast furnace hearth is reduced which in turn protects the health and safety of workers. These improvements have also resulted in a decreased amount of coal being used - this reduces CO2 emissions which is good news for the environment.
The knowledge and the tools developed over the course of ENHANCED BF can be shared with the entire blast furnace arena. In addition, European engineering companies, who are constructing blast furnaces worldwide, can also take benefit from the findings of the project.