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Automatic EAF: Technological Improvements for a More Accurate Process Control

M. Piazza1, M. Ometto2
1
Danieli Automation S.p.A.
Via Bonaldo Stringher 4, Buttrio, Italy 33042
Phone: +39 0432 518 917
Email: man.piazza@dca.it
2
Danieli Automation S.p.A.
Via Bonaldo Stringher 4, Buttrio, Italy 33042
Phone: +39 0432 518 517
Email: m.ometto@dca.it

Keywords: Computer Applications, Modular, EAF, Control Architecture, Automation

INTRODUCTION
In order to maintain the current trend in steelmaking, seeing world production rising at 2-4% and energy consumption
decreasing by 2% per year, advanced process control solutions should be deployed in critical plant areas. One such an area,
accounting for a great part of consumptions and emissions, is the Electric Arc Furnace. In Danieli’s vision, the addition of
advanced solutions such as closed loop control of gas emissions, innovative techniques for temperature measurement,
continuous charge control, automatic tapping and extensive use of robots is the key to a greener and more productive EAF, as
it is shown by actual plant usage data.

GLOBAL EAF OVERVIEW


An extensive survey of current EAF market share, benchmarks, performances and technologies was carried out to understand
current EAF status and provide a description of the Automatic EAF as envisioned by Danieli. The aim is to contextualize the
currently offered technologies against global benchmarks and provide support to our market choices/strategy, which are
markedly based on system modularization.
Global steel market overviews1 show that global steel demand will grow at 2-4% per annum for the next decade, with a
marked growth of Asia and Africa and a lower Chinese contribution. Raw materials costs quadrupled since 2002, and going
forward it is thus necessary to maximize resource efficiency and solve structural overcapacity. Currently, scrap-based steel
production accounts for about 30% of world steel output; the remaining fraction is produced via iron ore-based steelmaking
(65% BF-BOF, 5% DRI-EAF)2.
Keeping in mind these aspects, two EAF surveys3,4 were used to understand the current EAF market distribution, charge
mixes and performances (Figure 1). It is clear that the scrap fraction, averaged on the countries considered, is still the vast
majority of the EAF charge.
Of all the EAFs available in the surveys, a subset of 10 furnaces was isolated (Figure 2) to study the differences between
machines with reasonably similar operative range: maximum rated power, charge mix and produced steel grades. All of them
feature a traditional bucket charging system and no dedicated energy recovery devices.

AISTech 2015 Proceedings © 2015 by AIST 3700


Figure 1. Averages charge mixes of all the available EAFs grouped by country.

Figure 2. (a) Electric and chemical energy consumptions and (b) TTT of the subset of representative EAFs.

In these 10 EAFs it’s easy to notice a wide variability in terms of electric and chemical energy input as well as tap-to-tap time
(TTT), meaning that operative practices, even for similar machines and productions, are not standardized and ample
performance improvements are possible. On the field, the lack of procedure standardization is even more marked5, together
with the variability of:
• Feed materials.
• Utilization of injected materials.
• Equipment availability.
• Slag foaming.

Also, the lack of the following practices is very common:


• Standardization of practices.
• Proper benchmarking & feedback.
• Operator training.
• Understanding of resource value and use.

All these factors support our considerations regarding performance variability and available margin of performance
improvement.

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EAF Technologies and Benchmarks
EAF technologies have developed considerably in the last decades, drastically reducing electric energy and electrode
consumption and tap-to-tap time. In 2014, EAF best performances were estimated to be 330 kWh/tls for electric energy
consumption, 1 kg/tls for electrode consumption and a TTT equal to 36 minutes6.
In the field of EAF efficiency, limited results were recorded in the past with radical EAF redesigns. Some examples here are
the layouts featuring a bucket heating station or a finger shaft, characterized by unimpressive electric energy efficiency7 and
reliability issues. Several other studies, too, underlined the fact that the conventional bucket EAF installation is still one of
the most cost-effective technologies to produce liquid steel form scrap with a short return of investiment8. For all these
reasons we believe most efforts should be focused on conventional EAF design (bucket charging) to improve its
performances and profitability.
EAF mechanical specifications are already standardized in Danieli with well-defined dimensional and power specs classes,
defined according to charge mix, target productivity, plant layout and product type. A similar approach is implemented for
the automation and process control field to allow higher performances in new and existing plants.

EAF PROCESS AUTOMATION: MODULARITY


To attain these targets, Danieli implements modularity as a key aspect of present and future EAF automation systems.
As a matter of fact, a modular system enables multiple levels of process optimization and awareness. It also allows to
properly satisfy customer demand, addressing specific issues or overall performance of existing EAFs without radical
machine structural modifications. This way, the importance of efficiency over productiveness is stressed, in good accordance
with our initial considerations about resources cost and overcapacity issues. In Figure 3, two possible revamping choices are
shown: the first features a partial process optimization, and the second offers a fully-fledged control system and higher
optimization capabilities.

Figure 3. Different revamping and optimization choices are available with a modular approach to EAF automation.

Q-MELT Automatic EAF features a centralized control system as the only coordinating center (Figure 4). As such, it receives
information from multiple Technological Packages (TPs) and coordinates their action during the whole process. This way, a
single unified control strategy can be adopted and system modularity is guaranteed nonetheless. The 3Q Technology natively
supports such a system, with a centralized and intuitive control station for the whole EAF machine.

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Figure 4. (a) 3Q Technologies pyramidal organization and (b) 3Q pulpit arrangement: Operator Assistant (OA), Human-
Machine Interface (HMI), Plant Performance Indicator (PPI) and Area Performance Indicator (API).

Technological packages and adaptive control strategy


The centralized control station controls and coordinates the actions of all the TPs installed. The most important TPs for
process control and optimization regard the following fields:
• Real time laser-based off-gas analysis (LINDARC).
• Advanced electrode control (Q-REG+).
• Automatic bucket charging and least-cost charge optimization (Q-CHARGE).
• Electrode cooling optimization (Q-SmarTEC).
• Robotized steel sampling and temperature measurement (Q-ROBOT Melt).
• Bath temperature contactless measurement (Q-TEMP).
• Automatic tapping, camera-based inspection and automatic EBT refilling (Q-ATS).

Generally speaking, the identification of the best control strategy is non-trivial, considering the vast amount of process
variability and the inherent low system measurability. Regarding chemical energy management and off-gas analysis, a robust
approach was implemented to identify process deviations, involving statistical process characterization. Thanks to advanced
techniques of data mining, pre-processing and filtering, the expected process trends of few key process variables are
extracted. A suitable control system can thus identify occasional and systematic process deviations, proposing the proper
counteractions or process profile modifications.

Operative results
The 3Q Technology installed at RIVA Thy-Marcinelle shows how modules coordination positively impacts plant
performances. Here, the centralized control room covers and manages the entire EAF process, from the bucket alignment (via
laser system and automatic crane positioning cycles, Figure 5) to the tapping phase.

Figure 5. (a) Crane controls installed on the main pulpit and (b) crane control system HMI

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The activation of all the Autopilot System functions, together with the massive introduction of overlapping cycles, greatly
reduced the total number of delays due to automation (from 20% to 2%), thus improving the machine productivity by half
heat for each 12-hours shift (Figure 6)

Figure 6. (a) Total number of delays and (b) heats produced per day during 3Q system commissioning at RIVA Thy-
Marcinelle.

The results were obtained without mechanical or procedural intervention; thanks to the delay reduction, the power off time
was decreased from 13 to 9 minutes9.
A higher automation level generates marked improvements also in non-conventional charging EAFs. At Dongbu Steel
(continuous scrap charging EAF) the full implementation & calibration of the furnace weighting system, the automatic O2
injection control, and the introduction of scrap feed rate, tap changer and C injection dynamic regulation significantly
increased the EAF performances. Here, a 6.6% electric specific consumption was recorded, together with a 37% C
consumption reduction, 2% O2 consumption reduction, 3% power on reduction and a 45% power off time reduction.

CONCLUSIONS
Given steel market forecast and current EAF technology evaluation, the most profitable choice is to focus development
efforts on conventional EAFs to improve their efficiency and performances. A modular process control and automation
system, featuring one central control system interacting with multiple technological packages, gives the best possibilities in
this field. Consequently our roadmap, which features automatic data analysis and trend-based on-line monitoring, aims to
fulfill these requirements while keeping a modular approach, allowing proper market satisfaction and multiple levels of
process optimization.

REFERENCES
1. F. Bekaert, "Global steel industry perspective – synthesis version", ESTAD 2014
2. World steel Association, “Achieving the goal of zero-waste” Steel industry by-products fact sheet, Feb. 2010
3. “AIST 2014 Electric Arc Furnace Roundup”, Iron and Steel Technology, January 2014
4. 71st Electrical Furnaces’ Sectional Meeting
5. J.A.T. Jones, “EAF Steelmaking – Current State of the Art Technology and Future Developments”, 18th Steelmaking
Conference, IAS 2011
6. J. I. A. Albizun, H. Schult, "Benchmark analysis - A Tool to Define the Next Development Steps?", SGL Group
7. Average of energy consumption for shaft EAFs reported in 3 is 405 kWh/tls.
8. J. Kevin Cotchen, “EAF Processes and Equipment - Some are Lost, But Not Forgotten”, AisTech 2011
9. N. Veneri, A. Pezzoni, M. Ometto, L. M. Galasso, “An experience of plant control in RIVA Group using Operator
Independent Technology”, AisTech 2014

AISTech 2015 Proceedings © 2015 by AIST 3704