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Steel — Industry of the Future

Steel — Industry of the Future
Issue Time:2016-12-02

working together toward common goals

The steel industry is vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. It employs over 150,000 people in well-paying jobs and is among the most productive, efficient, and technologically sophisticated industries in the world. For example, many grades of steel in use today could not have been made even 10 years ago. Traditionally valued for its impressive strength, steel has also become the most recycled material, with 55 percent of U.S. steel now produced from scrap. Since energy represents about 15 percent of the total manufacturing cost for steel, steelmakers are highly motivated to reduce energy intensity. In 1995, industry leaders joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT) in a unique partnership known as Industries of the Future. This innovative partnership strategy aligns public and private R&D resources to address some of the industry’s toughest technological challenges. This strategy is helping the U.S. steel industry prepare for success in tomorrow’s global markets while advancing national goals for energy efficiency and the environment.

 Industry sets the goals and priorities Under the leadership of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA), the U.S. steel industry is actively engaged in the Industries of the Future strategy. By reaching a consensus on industry-wide goals and R&D priorities, the industry has succeeded in attracting public and private investment for new technology development. Collaborative teams share the costs and risks of R&D to accelerate meaningful technology advances.


Agreements provide quick start for new steel R&D efforts

In July 1997, AISI signed a cooperative agreement with DOE to provide joint industry-federal funding for research projects that address priority needs identified in the Steel Industry Technology Road-map. At roughly the same time, AISI completed "Pr-negotiated agreements" with a consortium of federal laboratories, establishing the terms and conditions of steel-sponsored work at the federal labs."We now have a simple, agile means of implementing the technology roadmap," said Andrew Sharkey, AISI President and CEO. "On the one hand, we have an agreement that provides federal cost-sharing, and on the other, agreements to execute work at the national labs on projects for which that is appropriate."


Making a difference

Over the last five years, OIT has committed more than $50 million to work on over

50 R&D projects in collaboration with the steel industry. Industry has provided

nearly $20 million in additional support. Through these cost-shared projects, DOE

and its many R&D partners have jointly commercialized 15 technologies and

expanded the base of fundamental knowledge to optimize steel making processes

and resource efficiency.

The Steel Industry of the Future partnership is already making a significant difference.

Two newly developed computer models are improving the energy efficiency of steel

production as well as product quality. The first optimizes the operation of hot blast

stoves used to preheat air fed to the blast furnace, reducing natural gas consumption

in the stoves by 7 percent. The second quantitatively links the mechanical properties

of hot-rolled steel to the operational characteristics of the mill, decreasing product

variability and optimizing hot rolling operations. Results of other R&D efforts include

long-lasting furnace components made from inter metallic alloys, which reduce equipment

downtime and improve steel quality, and ox y-fuel burners, which reduce NO x

emissions from steel reheating furnaces by 75 percent or more.


Showcasing success

The steel industry gains a firsthand look at the advanced, energy-efficient technologies and practices emerging from Industries of the Future by attending showcases. These popular public events feature presentations by technology developers, briefings on plant-wide assessments, and plant tours highlighting advanced technologies. OIT co-sponsors the showcases with steel mills that run efficient operations and have adopted cutting-edge technologies.


Burns Harbor Steel Showcase—April 1998

Bethlehem Steel’s flagship mill in Burns Harbor, Indiana, hosted the first showcase, at which participants learned about advanced processing, sensing,and materials technologies; efficient motor and steam systems; low-NOx combustion; solid waste reduction; and pollution reduction techniques.


Pittsburgh Regional Steel Showcase—May 2000

U.S Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant and Weir-ton Steel hosted this two-day event, of presentations, technology-focused plant tours, and a Congressional field hearing. Other sponsors included Bethlehem Steel, Tim-ken Company, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Economic Development, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Steel Manufacturers Association, and Koppel Steel.


Emerging technologies and best practices for today and tomorrow

OIT’s Steel Team supplements its R&D budget by coordinating activities with other OIT programs that can help advance steel industry goals. OIT’s Sensors and Controls

program, for example, has funded the development of a process for in-sit u, real-time measurement of melt constituents, which could increase productivity in steel mills. OIT’s Metal Casting Team also funds R&D that can offer carryover benefits for steel casting. The NICE3 (National Industrial Competitiveness through Energy, Environment,and Economics) program provides financial assistance for demonstrations of emerging steel technologies, such as the Energy-Efficient Process for Hot-Dip Batch Galvanizing.


Enabling Technologies

OIT’s Industrial Materials of the Future program works with industry, the national laboratories, academia, and others to develop and commercialize new and improved materials such as intermetallic alloys (including nickel, iron, titanium aluminum, and molybdenum dissimilitudes) to provide superior strength and corrosion resistance in high-temperature industrial environments. The Combustion program seeks to improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and enhance fuel flexibility by working with the combustion community to develop cost-effective technologies such as the oxy-fuel burner. The Sensors and Controls program is working to provide the steel industry with integrated measurement systems for operator-independent control of plant processes. Research is extending sensor reach and accuracy in harsh environments and improving the integration and processing of sensor data to enable on-line, automated assessment and adjustment of system parameters.