Electric steel specialist Steeltec, a member of the Swiss Steel Group, has invested around 60 million euros in a new walking beam furnace and other equipment at its rolling mill in Emmenbrücke near Lucerne in Switzerland, making it one of the biggest investments in recent years for the company and the entire Swiss Steel Group.
The new furnace enables significant efficiency gains in the rolling mill and for its customers and consistently ensures greater sustainability. Higher ring weights and a significantly more homogeneous quality of the rolled steel products are the result. Thanks to a high degree of specialisation, it uses its gas fuel very sparingly. It has been in operation since September 2021. As with its predecessor, it is a gas-fired walking beam furnace that continuously heats the billets coming from Steeltec’s own steelworks.
“With this investment, we are gaining in productivity and quality and can thus meet our customers’ demands even better. With the previous furnace, which was more than 40 years old, we could only process steel billets weighing 1.8 t, 11 m long and with a profile of 152 x 152 mm,” explains Dr Florian Geiger, CEO of Steeltec. “In contrast, the new plant currently heats billets weighing up to 2.3 t and 13 m long.”
Sustainability and increased efficiency
The longer and heavier products mean less process waste for customers, both in rolling and in further processing. In addition, thanks to the longer raw materials, customers’ machines need to be reset less often for the same amount of material. In the rolling mill, the annual steel throughput increases by around 5,000 t just because of the longer and heavier billets. In total, the new furnace can heat a maximum of 150 t of steel per hour to up to 1,300 degrees. The rolling mill processes about 200 different types of steel at temperatures between 1100 and 1250 degrees.
Ecologically, in particular, the new furnace is a considerable step forward. Despite its increased capacity and larger volume, it requires about 13 per cent less gas than the old plant. The waste process heat from the kiln is first used to preheat the billets after they enter the kiln. Afterwards, as much of the remaining waste heat as possible is decoupled into the district heating network of the city of Lucerne. Overall, Steeltec is reducing its CO2 emissions by just under 10% annually with the innovations in the rolling mill.
Frank Koch, CEO of Swiss Steel Group Holding AG, explains: “The investment is trend-setting for us: we are thus following the Swiss Steel Group’s strategy of positioning itself as a leader in the field of sustainable steel production.” Steeltec is already one of the largest recycling companies in Switzerland, processing around 680,000 tonnes of steel scrap annually into high-quality, high-grade and free-cutting steel. Around 60% of the input scrap comes from Switzerland, the rest from neighbouring countries. “Like the Swiss Steel Group, Steeltec is aware of its responsibility towards the environment and society,” says Dr Florian Geiger. “Increasing efficiency from steel melting to bright steel production has always been part of the company’s DNA and has made us one of the most ecologically efficient steel producers in our class. Across all production areas, Steeltec’s carbon footprint is around 90% lower than that of the global industry average.”
Additional modernisation measures
The implementation of the new walking beam furnace has triggered further modernisation steps in Emmenbrücke. In addition to the furnace and the new induction system, Steeltec has purchased two new Garrett coilers and a controlled cooling system for the finished rolled wire coils. The diameter of these rolled products is up to 50 mm as round or hexagonal sections and they are coiled with the reels into coils with a diameter of up to 1440 mm and a maximum weight of three tonnes. In the downstream controlled-cooling system, the coils are cooled in a controlled manner at 16 positions from below with blown-in air. Cooling is slow, uniform, controlled and can be individually adjusted for each steel grade.
Further investments are planned
The latest investments are a commitment to Emmenbrücke and to Switzerland as an industrial location. At the same time, they prepare for further modernisation steps at the plant. The new walking beam furnace has been moved back 100 metres. This creates space for an expansion of the rolling mill and thus for even more product variety and even greater flexibility in the future. For Steeltec, it is important to always stay on top of what is technically feasible: “Our customers appreciate our high flexibility, high delivery reliability and Swiss punctuality. Together with our customers, we also solve very short-term challenges at a high-quality level,” says Dr Geiger. “We want to maintain and further expand this advantage of flexibility and the large variety of products.”