Industrial gas company focuses on cost savings for steel sector

15th August 2014

Johannesburg-based industrial gas company Air Products South Africa states that in its 45 years of existence, it has maintained a close relationship with the steel and metals sectors and has implemented several measures to ensure cost savings in the steel combustion process.

Company national bulk sales manager Sachin Kulkarni says that the company’s first air separation unit, built four decades ago, was commissioned for steel company ArcelorMittal’s integrated steelworks at Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng.

“That was the start of a great working rela-tionship, where, even now, Air Products is an over-the-fence supplier to two of ArcelorMittal’s sites, Vanderbijlpark and Newcastle, as well as to other major South African steel plants,” Kulkarni explains.

Air Products is active in the areas of ore extraction and beneficiation as well as metals processing and the recycling of primary metals and minerals (PMM). The company’s work also includes supplying air products through cylinders, bulk liquids and pipelines.

The company has focused on cost reduction, and has achieved savings in energy consumption for its customers, especially in the combustion process.

“A large portion of cost in the PMM industry is associated with melting using chemical or electrical energy. This is why our oxygen fuel (oxy-fuel) burner systems in electrical steel furnaces ensure the efficient use of energy, where they result in improved melting efficiencies of up to 80 kWh/t and up to a 20% production increase,” Kulkarni elaborates.
Further, Air Products has seen significant reduction in melting costs per ton in global aluminum furnace installations, he states.

Kulkarni states that, owing to global com-petition, local steel producers are rethinking their business strategies, as China produces 500-million tons of steel a year, compared with South Africa’s nine-million tons a year.

“It will be challenging for countries such as South Africa to compete against India and China in the high-turnover markets, including rebar, metal sheeting, white goods, earthmoving equipment and other high-volume day-to-day metal products,” he concludes.