Helping Japanese steelmakers improve quality, with less resources, using ABB’s metallurgy solutions

‘Carbon neutrality’ and ‘Better quality’ are two big drivers in the Japanese steel industry today. Based on a unique combination of deep expertise in steelmaking and a portfolio of process optimization technologies for metallurgy applications, ABB is helping steelmakers achieve two vital goals at the same time: Emissions reduction, and production of higher quality and new steel grades.

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Hiromichi Yoda manages the Local Business Lines for Metals and Pulp & Paper for ABB in Japan.
In Japan, just like in the rest of the world, the steel industry is under continuously increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact. Specifically, Japanese steelmakers must find new ways to cut emissions of climate-harming CO2 from their operations. Although increasing production of sustainable steel, the market is demanding better quality steel, with fewer defects.

To help steel mills achieve both lower CO2 and higher quality, ABB Japan’s Metals and Metallurgy team are providing products that can not only reduce CO2 emitted per ton of steel produced, but also save them money and make their operations more consistent and easier to manage. For example, by adopting these technologies steelmakers can make better quality steel, with increased resource efficiency, thus saving raw materials and energy. The solutions also allow mills to better monitor their steel processes which can help reduce costly downtime, while keeping the operations safe, which is always a top concern.

Creating customized solutions that generates more value

Hiromichi Yoda manages the Local Business Lines for Metals and Pulp & Paper for ABB in Japan. In his day to day work he is deeply involved in technical and commercial discussions with customers, which are very often targeted on creating more value while using less raw materials in the metals industry.

“Essentially, our lineup of metallurgy products can all contribute to the customer making better quality steel at lower cost,” explains Yoda. “But exactly how we do that depends on the customer’s specific situation and conditions. Our approach is to have deep discussions with customers to really understand their aims and challenges, and then tailor the right solutions that will help them best reach their goals. We focus on close communication with them at every step, to follow up on how things are working and see what can be improved. We also get involved in maintenance questions, to keep the processes at the highest possible performance levels, and hold costs and CO2 emissions down.”

“The operational advantages a steel caster gets with our products often lead directly to the bottom line,” continues Yoda, “They help raise production yields and/or increase the product sales prices, thanks to higher, more consistent quality. And new steel grades can often be priced higher than existing grades. In addition, our metallurgy solutions can smooth out process swings, which means processes operate in a tighter quality zone. This can cut energy use and give a much more stable operation, with lower environmental impact.”

ABB’s ArcSave® technology works to optimize metallurgical performance for electric arc furnace operations.

Wide metallurgy range to solve any challenge

Many major blast furnace and electric arc furnace operations are already using ABB metallurgy products to increase productivity, improve end-product quality and reduce operating costs for electric arc, ladle and aluminum furnaces, as well as thick and thin slab and billet and bloom casters.

Among the key ABB products of interest to steelmakers in Japan are:

Processes become easier to operate, even for experienced steelmakers

There are also convincing ease-of-operation benefits to be gained with ABB’s solutions. In the steel industry, many process operations are done based mainly on operator experience. And those operators are certainly very skilled. But the ABB metallurgy products can create even more controlled stirring in molten metals by using electromagnetic force which is highly reproducible. This means they run it more efficiently based on current and frequency variables, rather than the individual operator’s experience. That’s a big step forward.

“For example our ArcSave technology, which is a large electromagnetic stirrer for electric arc furnace operations, manages the heavy stirring of molten metal very effectively. With fine-tuned control of the stirring and flow in the EAF, ArcSave helps metal scrap dissolve quickly, somewhat like sugar dissolving in coffee. This fast and efficient re-melting of scrap cuts energy consumption and increases productivity,” says Yoda. “It also keeps the steel quality very high.”

ABB’s office in Tokyo, Japan is located in ThinkPark Tower.

An easy first step to the digital future

ABB also can provide new digital metallurgy tools that can give steelmakers even greater insight into their operations. A solution enabling closed loop control in continuous casting is ABB Ability™ Optimold Control which will allow for detection, visualization and counteraction of deviations in real time via dynamic process control. But besides just helping the plant to run more smoothly, implementation of digital data solutions in steelmaking can also bring other positive side effects, comments Yoda.

“Besides just using digitalization to help meet production goals, it is very important for the Japanese steel industry to be adopting digital technology to make sure it can attract top talent for the future. Many steelmakers here face difficulties in getting talented young people to join their companies, because of the declining population in Japan and the heavy industrial environment. By using cutting edge digitalization methods to improve resource efficiency, ABB’s solutions can also play an important role in attracting tomorrow’s workforce to the steel business.”

About Hiromichi Yoda

Job title: Local Business Line Manager for Metals and Pulp & Paper, ABB Japan
Lives in: Ota-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Year of birth: 1985
Education: Master of Material Science, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Hobbies: I have two small kids. So it is very enjoyable to have family time, playing with the children and going to the park and shopping. In addition, I like to make breakfast, dinner and even cookies for my family – to see their smiles!

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