What your Graphite Electrode supplier does NOT tell you

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Dear Graphite Electrode User, 

Have you ever asked yourself the following question:

How can electrode manufacturers still cover costs in times of rising petroleum needle coke prices and decreasing graphite electrode market prices?

When you suspect your manufacturer is already producing below cost, you may become a little bit cautious. 

Especialy, at this time of market crisis, you want to know if your electrodes are really genuine HP or UHP quality.

Why?

Well, as you may know, graphite electrode market prices depend on large on petroleum coke costs.

Therefore, the higher the petreleum coke market prices, the lower the margin of the manufacturer. And the higher your risk the supplier reduces the needle coke content in his recipe.

Also, as a steel mill or foundry, you have to deal with the threat of price increases in energy costs and the never-ending fulfillment of all possible environmental regulations.

And you definitely don’t want to have to deal with unforeseeable costs in your production that come from changing electrode consumption.

This is why you want to know if your electrodes are really genuine HP or even UHP grades.

You see, I would never say

“your supplier is lying to you or he would hide important info.”

But if you have already made the following annoying experience, you may get a little bit suspicious:

Your electrode consumption has fluctuated … Although you have always ordered “the same quality“according to your supplier?! 

Wouldn’t you agree that you must know the differences between electrode grades?

But is there no way for you to inform yourself about graphite electrodes?

From websites, from your supplier brochures or scientific papers not really.

Electrode buyers have a hard time finding facts about raw materials used, target performances and production technology

Because apart from a few hard-to-understand scientific reports, there is simply not enough content out there. Even a time-consuming Internet research will give you little clues.

Try a google-search for “graphite electrode grades” and you will see advertisements after advertisement by electrode vendors – in Germany, that is nearly 3 pages full of ads.

And if you do find something valuable, that may be a book about Material Science that has a small 100 words section about graphite electrodes. However, you may notice that the section is about a different kind of electrodes, not the one you are using for your electric arc furnace.

It is hard to find facts about electrodes on your own

also in part because many electrode vendors don’t want to educate their customers.

What I mean is this:

If you feel that your electrode consumption is too high – you would probably ask your trusted supplier for help.

You want a professional and partnership-based discussion of all possible reasons for the failure AND get a small lecture in graphite electrode technology.

Then it is more than annoying to hear as an answer from your supplier:

“The increased electrode consumption can be subject to a host of factors …” without being any concrete.

A pretty simple way to deny responsibility, right? And while it is true that consumption can come from many factors, it is pretty cumbersome to feel not being taken serious.

I would certainly understand if this kind memory makes you angry.

OK, so next I’ll tell you something that will excite you.

There is now a bundle of  whitepapers 

with all the essential knowledge you will ever need in your EAF carreer

It is called The First Ever “Library of Graphite Electrodes” that consists of 4 whitepapers. 

Each whitepaper is between 6 and 25 pages long and you will learn in understandable language:

  • the actual difference between electrode qualities in understandable language
  • how to see differences between the qualities, performance and resistivities
  • the raw materials that determine fully 80 % of your purchasing costs
  • production methods and technologies
  • what it means to speak the language of your electrode suppliers 
  • how to recognize when the actual performance deviates from the data sheet

Within only 20 minutes reading time a day you will learn all there is to it. The info is demonstrated on clear charts and graphs and understandable, no tech-language.

This means you or your colleagues will only everything there is to know about graphite electrodes with only a small investment of your time and effort.

The bundle of booklets has been used by various steel producers to educate their purchasing managers and EAF engineers. 

In the fastest time possible, you will learn everything there is to know about graphite electrodes and you will immediately recognize when your supplier is trying to trick you!

The bundle was sold in print or electronic PDF for €69 during the electrode crisis in 2017 to over 70 steel mills in Europe and the EMEA region

Now, for a short time and only on this blog, the bundle is available for FREE and immediate download. 

The knowledge comes from 61 years of experience in buying, using electrodes and sharing ideas with graphite electrode users in 35 countries.

Download your ebook today and never be speechless again in front of your supplier.

Click here to learn more

(Only for a limited time!)

The Electric Arc Furnace – Part 4 (EAF vs the others)

This is the fourth part of our EAF-series. It is about the differences and communalities of EAF, Indiction Furnaces, Ladle furnaces, Plasma Furnaces & Vacuum Arc Furnaces.

EAF vs other electrical furnaces

Arc furnaces differ from induction furnaces in that the charge material is directly exposed to an electric arc and the current in the furnace terminals passes through the charged material.

For steelmaking, direct current (DC) arc furnaces are used, with a single electrode in the roof and the current return through a conductive bottom lining or conductive pins in the base.

The advantage of DC is lower electrode consumption per ton of steel produced, since only one electrode is used, as well as less electrical harmonics and other similar problems.

The size of DC arc furnaces is limited by the current carrying capacity of available electrodes, and the maximum allowable voltage. Maintenance of the conductive furnace hearth is a bottleneck in extended operation of a DC arc furnace.

In a steel plant, a ladle furnace (LF) is used to maintain the temperature of liquid steel during processing after tapping from EAF or to change the alloy composition. The ladle is used for the first purpose when there is a delay later in the steelmaking process.

The ladle furnace consists of a refractory roof, a heating system, and, when applicable, a provision for injecting argon gas into the bottom of the melt for stirring. Unlike a scrap melting furnace, a ladle furnace does not have a tilting or scrap charging mechanism.[citation needed]

Electric arc furnaces are also used for production of calcium carbideferroalloys and other non-ferrous alloys, and for production of phosphorus. Furnaces for these services are physically different from steel-making furnaces and may operate on a continuous, rather than batch, basis.

Continuous process furnaces may also use paste-type, Søderberg electrodes to prevent interruptions due to electrode changes. Such a furnace is known as a submerged arc furnace because the electrode tips are buried in the slag/charge, and arcing occurs through the slag, between the matte and the electrode. A steelmaking arc furnace, by comparison, arcs in the open.

The key is the electrical resistance, which is what generates the heat required: the resistance in a steelmaking furnace is the atmosphere, while in a submerged-arc furnace the slag or charge forms the resistance. The liquid metal formed in either furnace is too conductive to form an effective heat-generating resistance.

Amateurs have constructed a variety of arc furnaces, often based on electric arc welding kits contained by silical blocks or flower pots. Though crude, these simple furnaces can melt a wide range of materials, create calcium carbide, etc.

A plasma arc furnace (PAF) uses plasma torches instead of graphite electrodes. Each of these torches consists of a casing provided with a nozzle and an axial tubing for feeding a plasma-forming gas (either nitrogen or argon), and a burnable cylindrical graphite electrode located within the tubing. Such furnaces can be referred to as “PAM” (Plasma Arc Melt) furnaces. They are used extensively in the titanium melt industry and similar specialty metals industries.[10]

Vacuum arc remelting (VAR) is a secondary remelting process for vacuum refining and manufacturing of ingots with improved chemical and mechanical homogeneity.

In critical military and commercial aerospace applications, material engineers commonly specify VIM-VAR steels. VIM means Vacuum Induction Melted and VAR means Vacuum Arc Remelted. VIM-VAR steels become bearings for jet engines, rotor shafts for military helicopters, flap actuators for fighter jets, gears in jet or helicopter transmissions, mounts or fasteners for jet engines, jet tail hooks and other demanding applications.

Most grades of steel are melted once and are then cast or teemed into a solid form prior to extensive forging or rolling to a metallurgically sound form. In contrast, VIM-VAR steels go through two more highly purifying melts under vacuum. After melting in an electric arc furnace and alloying in an argon oxygen decarburization vessel, steels destined for vacuum remelting are cast into ingot molds.

The solidified ingots then head for a vacuum induction melting furnace. This vacuum remelting process rids the steel of inclusions and unwanted gases while optimizing the chemical composition. The VIM operation returns these solid ingots to the molten state in the contaminant-free void of a vacuum.

This tightly controlled melt often requires up to 24 hours. Still enveloped by the vacuum, the hot metal flows from the VIM furnace crucible into giant electrode molds. A typical electrode stands about 15 feet (5 m) tall and will be in various diameters. The electrodes solidify under vacuum.

For VIM-VAR steels, the surface of the cooled electrodes must be ground to remove surface irregularities and impurities before the next vacuum remelt. Then the ground electrode is placed in a VAR furnace. In a VAR furnace the steel gradually melts drop-by-drop in the vacuum-sealed chamber.

Vacuum arc remelting further removes lingering inclusions to provide superior steel cleanliness and further remove gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen. Controlling the rate at which these droplets form and solidify ensures a consistency of chemistry and microstructure throughout the entire VIM-VAR ingot.

This in turn makes the steel more resistant to fracture or fatigue. This refinement process is essential to meet the performance characteristics of parts like a helicopter rotor shaft, a flap actuator on a military jet or a bearing in a jet engine.

For some commercial or military applications, steel alloys may go through only one vacuum remelt, namely the VAR. For example, steels for solid rocket cases, landing gears or torsion bars for fighting vehicles typically involve the one vacuum remelt.

Vacuum arc remelting is also used in production of titanium and other metals which are reactive or in which high purity is required.

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Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_arc_furnace

Degner, M. et ali, Steel Institute VDeh (2008), Steel Manual, Düsseldorf Verlag Stahleisen GmbH.

httpswww.shutterstock.comdeimage-vectormetallurgy-iron-steel-production-electric-arc-1391332520

The Electric Arc Furnace – Part 3 (Operation)

This is the third of the series of EAF for steelmaking. It focuses on the operation part of EAF production.

Operation

A mid-sized modern steelmaking furnace would have a transformer rated about 60,000,000 volt-amperes (60 MVA), with a secondary voltage between 400 and 900 volts and a secondary current in excess of 44,000 amperes. In a modern shop such a furnace would be expected to produce a quantity of 80 metric tonnes of liquid steel in approximately 50 minutes from charging with cold scrap to tapping the furnace.

In comparison, basic oxygen furnaces can have a capacity of 150–300 tonnes per batch, or “heat”, and can produce a heat in 30–40 minutes. Enormous variations exist in furnace design details and operation, depending on the end product and local conditions, as well as ongoing research to improve furnace efficiency. The largest scrap-only furnace (in terms of tapping weight and transformer rating) is a DC furnace operated by Tokyo Steel in Japan, with a tap weight of 420 metric tonnes and fed by eight 32MVA transformers for 256MVA total power.

To produce a ton of steel in an electric arc furnace requires approximately 400 kilowatt-hours per short ton or about 440 kWh per metric tonne; the theoretical minimum amount of energy required to melt a tonne of scrap steel is 300 kWh (melting point 1520 °C/2768 °F).

Therefore, a 300-tonne, 300 MVA EAF will require approximately 132 MWh of energy to melt the steel, and a “power-on time” (the time that steel is being melted with an arc) of approximately 37 minutes. Electric arc steelmaking is only economical where there is plentiful electricity, with a well-developed electrical grid.

In many locations, mills operate during off-peak hours when utilities have surplus power generating capacity and the price of electricity is less.

The scrap is loaded into large buckets called baskets, with “clamshell” doors for a base. Care is taken to layer the scrap in the basket to ensure good furnace operation; heavy melt is placed on top of a light layer of protective shred, on top of which is placed more shred.

These layers should be present in the furnace after charging. After loading, the basket may pass to a scrap pre-heater, which uses hot furnace off-gases to heat the scrap and recover energy, increasing plant efficiency.

The scrap basket is then taken to the melt shop, the roof is swung off the furnace, and the furnace is charged with scrap from the basket. Charging is one of the more dangerous operations for the EAF operators.

A lot of potential energy is released by the tonnes of falling metal; any liquid metal in the furnace is often displaced upwards and outwards by the solid scrap, and the grease and dust on the scrap is ignited if the furnace is hot, resulting in a fireball erupting.

In some twin-shell furnaces, the scrap is charged into the second shell while the first is being melted down, and pre-heated with off-gas from the active shell. Other operations are continuous charging—pre-heating scrap on a conveyor belt, which then discharges the scrap into the furnace proper, or charging the scrap from a shaft set above the furnace, with off-gases directed through the shaft. Other furnaces can be charged with hot (molten) metal from other operations.

After charging, the roof is swung back over the furnace and meltdown commences. The electrodes are lowered onto the scrap, an arc is struck and the electrodes are then set to bore into the layer of shred at the top of the furnace.

Lower voltages are selected for this first part of the operation to protect the roof and walls from excessive heat and damage from the arcs. Once the electrodes have reached the heavy melt at the base of the furnace and the arcs are shielded by the scrap, the voltage can be increased and the electrodes raised slightly, lengthening the arcs and increasing power to the melt.

This enables a molten pool to form more rapidly, reducing tap-to-tap times. Oxygen is blown into the scrap, combusting or cutting the steel, and extra chemical heat is provided by wall-mounted oxygen-fuel burners. Both processes accelerate scrap meltdown. Supersonic nozzles enable oxygen jets to penetrate foaming slag and reach the liquid bath.

Once the scrap has completely melted down and a flat bath is reached, another bucket of scrap can be charged into the furnace and melted down, although EAF development is moving towards single-charge designs.

After the second charge is completely melted, refining operations take place to check and correct the steel chemistry and superheat the melt above its freezing temperature in preparation for tapping. More slag formers are introduced and more oxygen is blown into the bath, burning out impurities such as

Removal of carbon takes place after these elements have burnt out first, as they have a greater affinity for oxygen. Metals that have a poorer affinity for oxygen than iron, such as nickel and copper, cannot be removed through oxidation and must be controlled through scrap chemistry alone, such as introducing the direct reduced iron and pig iron mentioned earlier.

A foaming slag is maintained throughout, and often overflows the furnace to pour out of the slag door into the slag pit. Temperature sampling and chemical sampling take place via automatic lances. Oxygen and carbon can be automatically measured via special probes that dip into the steel, but for all other elements, a “chill” sample—a small, solidified sample of the steel—is analysed on an arc-emission spectrometer.

Once the temperature and chemistry are correct, the steel is tapped out into a preheated ladle through tilting the furnace. For plain-carbon steel furnaces, as soon as slag is detected during tapping the furnace is rapidly tilted back towards the deslagging side, minimising slag carryover into the ladle.

For some special steel grades, including stainless steel, the slag is poured into the ladle as well, to be treated at the ladle furnace to recover valuable alloying elements. During tapping some alloy additions are introduced into the metal stream, and more lime is added on top of the ladle to begin building a new slag layer.

Often, a few tonnes of liquid steel and slag is left in the furnace in order to form a “hot heel”, which helps preheat the next charge of scrap and accelerate its meltdown. During and after tapping, the furnace is “turned around”.

The slag door is cleaned of solidified slag, the visible refractories are inspected and water-cooled components checked for leaks, and electrodes are inspected for damage or lengthened through the addition of new segments; the taphole is filled with sand at the completion of tapping.

For a 90-tonne, medium-power furnace, the whole process will usually take about 60–70 minutes from the tapping of one heat to the tapping of the next (the tap-to-tap time).

The furnace is completely emptied of steel and slag on a regular basis so that an inspection of the refractories can be made and larger repairs made if necessary. As the refractories are often made from calcined carbonates, they are extremely susceptible to hydration from water, so any suspected leaks from water-cooled components are treated extremely seriously, beyond the immediate concern of potential steam explosions.

Excessive refractory wear can lead to breakouts, where the liquid metal and slag penetrate the refractory and furnace shell and escape into the surrounding areas.

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Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_arc_furnace

Degner, M. et ali, Steel Institute VDeh (2008), Steel Manual, Düsseldorf Verlag Stahleisen GmbH.

httpswww.shutterstock.comdeimage-vectormetallurgy-iron-steel-production-electric-arc-1391332520

The Electric Arc Furnace – History & UHP Concept (part 2)

In this post, we will be talking about the history of EAF-steelmaking & the almost mystical concept of Ultra High Power Arc Furnaces (or short UHP).

History

The first successful and operational furnace was invented by James Burgess Readman in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1888 and patented in 1889. This was specifically for the creation of phosphorus

Though the arc furnace came out in the 1900s, the major development has waited its time till the end of the WWII. During the latest decades, the development has escalated and brought revolutionary changes to the steel industry.

While EAFs were widely used in World War II for production of alloy steels, it was only later that electric steelmaking began to expand.

The low capital cost for a mini-mill—around US$140–200 per ton of annual installed capacity, compared with US$1,000 per ton of annual installed capacity for an integrated steel mill—allowed mills to be quickly established in war-ravaged Europe This fact

also allowed them to successfully compete with the big United States steelmakers, such as Bethlehem Steel and U.S. Steel, for low-cost, carbon steel “long products” (structural steel, rod and bar, wire, and fasteners) in the U.S. market.

Need for Ultra-High Power Arc Furnces

Since the concept of the UHP arc furnace(ultrahigh power arc furnace) emerged in the mid-60s, people have tried to build the bigger furnace with higher power and capacity.

The application of advanced technologies like dynamic compensation system and water-cooling system boosts the development vigorously.

There are several essential elements that caused the evolution:

  • The increasing quantity of scrap steel;
  • The rapid development of the entire steel industry.

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Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_arc_furnace

Degner, M. et ali, Steel Institute VDeh (2008), Steel Manual, Düsseldorf Verlag Stahleisen GmbH.

httpswww.shutterstock.comdeimage-vectormetallurgy-iron-steel-production-electric-arc-1391332520

The Electric Arc Furnace – Advantages & Deficiencies

This is our series on EAF-steelmaking for new in the job managers.

The 5-part series summarizes several articles from wikipedia and the not-so-plentyful literature about the topic.

There is a lot of material covered. After reading the posts, you will be expert in the following topics:

  • Advantages vs Disadvantages of EAF-use (part 1)
  • history and UHP concept (part 2)
  • Operation mode (part 3)
  • EAF vs other furnaces (part 4)
  • Construction (part 5)

If you want to know even more about the topic of Electric arc furnaces, I can also recommend articles written by Matteo Sporchia (on LinkedIN).

Introduction

Industrial arc furnaces range in size from small units of approximately one ton capacity (used in foundries for producing cast iron products) up to about 400 ton units used for secondary steelmaking) (average is 80 to 120 MT).

Arc furnaces used in research laboratories and by dentists may have a capacity of only a few dozen grams. Industrial electric arc furnace temperatures can be up to 1,800 °C (3,272 °F), while laboratory units can exceed 3,000 °C (5,432 °F).

The electric arc furnaces are the most widely used steel furnace around the world. It can be used to smelt high-quality steel and other special steels.

Advantages

  • capabable of producing the full range of steel grades
  • not dependent on a particular type of charge (scrap, sponge, iron, pig iron, hot metal),
  • low capital outlay,
  • melting process can be programmed and automated
  • high efficiency and flexibility

The use of EAFs allows steel to be made from a 100% scrap metal feedstock. This greatly reduces the energy required to make steel when compared with primary steelmaking from ores.

Another benefit is flexibility: while blast furnaces cannot vary their production by much and can remain in operation for years at a time, EAFs can be rapidly started and stopped, allowing the steel mill to vary production according to demand.

Although steelmaking arc furnaces generally use scrap steel as their primary feedstock, if hot metal from a blast furnace or direct-reduced iron is available economically, these can also be used as furnace feed.

As EAFs require large amounts of electrical power, many companies schedule their operations to take advantage of off-peak electricity pricing.

A typical steelmaking arc furnace is the source of steel for a mini-mill, which may make bars or strip product. Mini-mills can be sited relatively near to the markets for steel products, and the transport requirements are less than for an integrated mill, which would commonly be sited near a harbour for access to shipping.

The supply and the price of electricity become stable, which makes it possible to generalize the arc furnace;

  • The arc furnace tends to be larger and more powerful;
  • Less investment, quick to construct and fast cost recovery;
  • The temperature and the component of the molten steel can be controlled with accuracy. The arc furnace can also smelt various kinds of different steels.Compared with others, the arc furnace also has several obvious advantages:
  • The arc can heat the furnace and the steel up to 4000-6000℃directly and smelt special steels that contain refractory elements like W and Mo.
  • The arc furnace could remove the toxic gases and the inclusions while deoxidizing and desulfurating.
  • High flexibility. The arc furnace is capable of engaging production continuously or intermittently.
  • Currently, owing to the development of related technologies, the electric arc furnaces could be well -integrated with traditional steel-making processes. But there are also several deficiencies

Deficiencies

  • The arc can only generate point-like heating sources, which will cause uneven heat distribution in the furnace.
  • The arc will react with the furnace gases and vapor and release large quantities of H 2 and N 2.

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Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_arc_furnace

Degner, M. et ali, Steel Institute VDeh (2008), Steel Manual, Düsseldorf Verlag Stahleisen GmbH.

httpswww.shutterstock.comdeimage-vectormetallurgy-iron-steel-production-electric-arc-1391332520