Arc furnace upgrade

Sheffield Forgemasters has completed an investment of two million pounds into its melting facility to make refined steel with reduced energy consumption.

The inward investment is part of Forgemasters' turnaround plan and drive towards operational efficiency improvements and comes after the company announced a new intake of 14 apprentices for 2017 across all of its business divisions.

Despite harsh trading conditions and uncertainty over Brexit, management voted to strip out almost 80 per cent of the primary electric arc furnace to replace the furnace gantry, electrode columns and current carrying arms, cabling, automation and control systems, hydraulics and water cooling with upgraded equipment to achieve 15 per cent efficiency improvement.

Gareth Barker, operations director at Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd, said: “The investment and subsequent project to overhaul and upgrade the primary electric arc furnace is one of the largest infrastructure projects we've undertaken at the Brightside Lane site for a number of years.

“It is a significant investment by the company and is part of a much broader plan to increase efficiencies and to make the company more efficient moving forward.”

The company's electric arc furnace was installed in the 1960s with a capacity to melt 90 tonne this was later upgraded to 105 tonnes tap weight.

Gareth added: “Logistically and physically, this has been an enormous undertaking and we have removed over 150 tonnes of steel, mechanical components, hydraulics, refractory material and cabling in order to re-fit the furnace up to a much higher specification.

“The previous configuration served us well over the years and has been continually upgraded and maintained but to make a more effective melting plant, we knew that it would require radical reconfiguration.

“With the exception of the main hearth and staging, we have essentially built a new furnace which will operate much faster, with less energy consumption and will be capable of producing even cleaner steels.

“In order for Sheffield Forgemasters to compete in an increasingly competitive and fluctuating global market, the one thing we need to achieve in partnership with our technical excellence is the ability to make efficiencies across the board.

“This is the first of a series of inward investments the company is making and we will release details of the other initiatives in due course.”

Upgrading the furnace has taken 7 months from the original design stage including a 7 week production outage for the decommissioning, installation and commissioning, with teams working throughout the Christmas period to complete the job and has required very careful planning to ensure that other departments have not been starved of work.

Sheffield Forgemasters is a key supplier of bespoke components to the UK and US defence industries, civil nuclear power, power generation, offshore oil and gas and materials processing markets across the globe. It exports more than 70 per cent of its products.