Pyromet Technologies technical director Bruce Nourse notes that new smelting plants fitted with extraction equipment may yield better results, as retrofitting is technically challenging and the solution provided is not always guaranteed to work as successfully.
The company is currently involved on two environmental projects, the first being an upgrade to the Metalloys plant, in Meyerton, which will be completed in January 2005.
He informs that the R13,1-million project calls for the collection of secondary tapping fumes to improve environmental conditions inside the plant.
These fumes will be sucked off in a hood and collected from the plant for proper disposal, rather than having the dust dispersed in the air.
“At Cape Iron and Steel Company, a R6,5-million project is to be completed this month for fume extraction and preconditioning through a spray cooler for easier collection in the existing bag-filter plant,” Nourse says.
Business development director Chris Oertel provides an update on its R520-million portion of the pending International Ferro Metals (IFM) ferrochrome project: “We are currently awaiting the completion of the debt-funding banks’ due-diligence tasks, to be followed by the listing of IFM on the Australian Stock Exchange, after which enough capital can be acquired for the R1,3-billion project to proceed.” Oertel is confident that the project will go ahead because of strong demand for the ferrochrome product.
He informs that Pyromet will soon start the engineering design for the ferrochrome-smelter complex to reduce the project implementation period following the listing.
Local companies Outokumpu and Bateman will construct the sinter plant, and Dowding Reynard & Associates will construct the ore-beneficiation plant.
Oertel reports that a competitive benefit will be had by the operating facility in its reduced costs for transportation between the mine, ore-beneficiation plant and smelter, which are all located on the same site.
In terms of market share in the local smelting industry, Pyromet has built nine of the 15 ferrochrome furnaces contracted for construction to specialist furnace builders over the last 19 years, marketing director Graham Powell reveals.
These include semiclosed and closed furnaces, for clients such as Chrome Resources, Xstrata, Hernic Ferrochrome and ASA Metals.
In the August 6 issue of Engineering News, an article extensively discussed Pyromet’s projects in India – where, incidentally, another contract has since been awarded for the supply of lower-electrode equipment for two existing ferrochrome furnaces, to further entrench the company’s position in that market.
Powell remarks on Pyromet’s attempts to expand its foreign footprint into countries such as India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Brazil and China.
“Some ten per cent of our turnover is derived from export business, but the projects are smaller and tend to involve the supply of key technology and equipment, compared with our South African work which is typically turnkey project activity,” Powell elaborates.
He nevertheless foresees export business growing to 20%–25% of the company’s turnover as the number of foreign projects continues to grow.
He also points out that, despite the rand’s strong performance, export business has not declined to date because Pyromet does not compete on price in the international arena, relying rather on its reputation for technology, reliability and quality.
Powell ascribes this reputation to the substantial investment made in research and development (R&D) in new furnace technology, which has recently produced such successes as its electrode holder – which continues to undergo improvements, the most recent being a cost-effective forged cooling skirt for the pressure ring in place of the previously cast skirt, and a monitoring system for measuring electrode length and detecting electrode breaks in the furnace – and an improved water-cooler furnace roof design, which will be further enhanced by the development of a control system for monitoring furnace-lining condition.
These small yet incremental R&D advances meet the increasing demand for larger, higher-powered furnaces with the concurrent need for higher levels of automation in control systems and more reliable equipment and systems.
Environmental and energy-saving issues have also been a driver for development, Powell adds.
He concludes with the observation that South African smelter technology is being more widely recognised as world-class, enabling local companies to bid with confidence against their developed-world counterparts in global projects.