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Steel industry targets energy saving opportunities

Southern Steel Company (SSC) reduces energy consumption by 30kWh/tonne of product and fuel costs by VND110,000/tonne.

The application of waste gas in drying scrap steel as well as the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) to replace fuel oil in steel billet blast furnaces with a capacity of 80 tonne/hour has helped the Southern Steel Company (SSC) reduce energy consumption by 30kWh/tonne of product and fuel costs by VND110,000/tonne.

These results have been achieved by a typical steel production unit which is striving to apply energy saving solutions in its production. Other units have also applied these solutions in order to reduce energy consumption, production costs and environmental production.

For years, the steel industry has strongly developed and become a key industry of the country. Since its foundation namely Thai Nguyen Iron and Steel Area in 1959, the steel industry has so far met basic needs on steel rolling, steel pipes and steel bars.

The steel industry features as an energy consuming industry. Statistics from the Institute of Energy show that some 65 iron and steel production projects have a capacity of some 100,000 tonnes. Although steel mills have just used nearly half of their capacity, these mills have consumed about 3.5 billion kWh of electricity annually. The volume of coal, oil, electricity which the steel industry has consumed accounts for six percent of total energy consumption volume of all industries. In addition, due to applying outdated technology, Vietnamese enterprises take double the global average of time to produce a steel batch. Specifically, the Steel Corporation reported that it took from 90 minutes to 180 minutes on average for Vietnamese enterprises to produce a batch of steel (compared to an international average of 45-70 minutes), consuming 550-690 kWh (compared to 360-430 kWh/tonne internationally).

With such a large amount of energy consumption, there is high potential for energy saving in steel enterprises, with potentially savings of 30 percent possible. Therefore, steel enterprises have taken the initiative in applying technology in order to reduce product prices, increase quality and boost competitiveness. Pham Chi Cuong, the chairman of the Vietnam Steel Association said that many big steel enterprises such as the Hoa Phat Corporation and the Southern Steel Company has actively applied modern technologies because they are aware that investment in technologies is a vital solution in the a context where the steel sector is suffering. Many enterprises have invested in 120 tonne electric furnaces to replacement of 20 tonne furnaces which Hoa Phat used previously. Thanks to these modern furnaces, power consumption has reduced from 600 kWh to 300 kWh/ tonne of product, bringing better economic returns for enterprises.

Taking the lead in technological application to reduce power consumption, the Vietnam Steel Cooperation has intensively improved available equipment, applied modern techniques and arranged production processes so as to reduce energy consumption and increase production efficiency. For example, they have increased the capacity of transformers in blast furnaces to reduce the time used to create molten steel and used water to cool furnaces. Wasted steel processing machines have been used to clean crushed steel pieces, shortened fuel charging time, and reduced times when furnaces have been stopped or opened. Liquid cast iron has been used in mixing materials. Furnaces with capacity of less than 10 tonnes will no longer be used. Production activities will be divided into two working shifts during off peak hours. These solutions have helped reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent.

However, according to Tran Manh Hung, the head of the Economic Forecast and Energy Need Management under the Institute of Energy said that only big enterprises are able to invest in modern technologies because these technologies require large-scale investment. In addition, the capacity of enterprises has hindered them from applying modern technologies with smaller capacity from 100,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes/ year while modern technologies are only applied for large capacity furnaces (more than 500,000 tonnes/ year).

Pham Chi Cuong affirmed that it is necessary to invest in technologies; however, it will take quite a long time because most enterprises remain small and medium in size with limited capital. Therefore, enterprises should be aware the importance of technological investment so as to develop a plan to increase their competitiveness in particular and the steel industry in general.

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