AI Assistance Imperative for Net Zero Steel Manufacturing!

Digital Transformation Can Help Save the Planet.

The world has woken up to the fact that “Climate Change,” if left unchecked, can cause serious global problems. Research has predicted that energy-related CO2 emissions will increase by 6%, rising from 33 Gt in 2015 to 35 Gt in 2050. A global energy transition is urgently needed if the average global surface temperature increase must stay below 2° Celsius. Transitioning away from fossil fuels to low-carbon solutions is essential, as energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions represent two-thirds of all greenhouse gases (GHG) [1]

The increased awareness has caused steel manufacturers to consider adopting more efficient processes that minimize negative environmental impacts. A growing number of organizations are also realizing significant financial benefits in operating sustainably. Technology can play a vital role in mitigating climate change while guiding manufacturers toward economically-sound processes too. However, shifting to sustainable business practices involves completely reimagining how we manufacture goods and use energy.

Net-Zero Manufacturing is the ultimate in sustainability. It aims at bringing greenhouse gas emissions down to zero while manufacturing quality products with the help of digitalization.

In the steel-making process, coal gets first converted to coke and then fed into the blast furnace to supply heat and fuel the chemical reaction between the iron ore and other raw materials. Coke is the primary source of carbon produced during the carburizing of coal, i.e., heating it at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Steel is crucial to many industries, from modern engineering and construction to automobile production and many more. On average, the global steel industry burns about 1 billion tons of metallurgical coal to produce 1.7 billion tons of crude steel, contributing to 7-10% of global greenhouse emissions. [2] EU Climate and Energy Legislation prioritizes digitalization and de-carbonization of steel and related manufacturing.

The onus of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is now upon the steel manufacturers. Many have already adopted digital transformation as an opportunity for increasing efficiency and improving their production processes.

The Vedanta Spark program has acknowledged Neewee as one of the top startups, having worked on the prediction and optimization of coal blend for Vedanta’s Sesa Goa Iron Ore and ESL Steel Ltd.  

Sesa Goa Iron Ore Business of Vedanta Limited is engaged in exploration, mining, and processing of iron ore. The company was founded in 1954 as Scambi Economici SA Goa and acquired by Vedanta. Since then, it has grown to be one among the top low-cost producers of iron ore in the country. During 1991-1995, it diversified into the manufacture of pig iron and metallurgical coke. Sesa Goa Iron Ore also has a 60 MW power plant that produces clean power by using the waste heat recovery from its coke ovens and blast furnace gas. Sesa Goa Iron Ore operations in India are in Goa & Karnataka. The company has implemented AI-powered energy recovery while manufacturing coke, compliant with advanced global emission norms. 

Located in Siyaljori village in Bokaro district of Jharkhand, ESL Steel Limited, a part of Vedanta Group, is a leading integrated primary steel producer. It has a 1.5 million tons per annum (MTPA) greenfield integrated steel plant that produces pig iron, billets, TMT bars (V-XEGA), wire rods (V-WIRRO), and ductile iron pipes (V-DUCPIPE). The facility, equipped for manufacturing a diverse range of steel products, uses high-quality raw materials and endeavors to achieve consistent quality output.

Neewee’s proprietary AI applications collect, connect, and analyze data acquired from every point of the process to optimize manufacturing operations. Since the data information is distributed over the various systems in the workflow, such as operational maintenance systems and quality management systems, it gets challenging to control and reduce wastage. While optimizing the processes, maintaining the metallurgical coal and the yield at a stipulated level without overloading assets becomes essential. 

Aside from achieving the primary objective of optimizing coal consumption, Neewee’s AI apps also helped reduce production costs. Since coal is the primary constituent in the raw material, optimal usage during every production campaign directly impacts the market price of steel.

By controlling consumption and wastage of fossil fuel, Neewee AI apps help pave the pathway to the de-carbonization of steel manufacturing, making a significant contribution to environmental sustainability.

The other advantage of AI-enabled process control and predictive maintenance is that a modern blast furnace can operate continuously for at least half a century with overhauls or relines every 15-20 years while maintaining efficiency in operations. The industry can easily extract a regular lifespan from the existing facility via periodic relining instead of retiring the blast furnace early for switching to a more carbon-efficient technology. [3]

The strategic integration of AI apps provides a competitive advantage while also catalysing environmentally responsible manufacturing. 

It is imperative to go with AI because there is no planet B!

References

[1] Gielen, D., Boshell, F., Saygin, D., Bazilian, M. D., Wagner, N., & Gorini, R. (2019). The role of renewable energy in the global energy transformation. Energy Strategy Reviews, 24, 38–50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esr.2019.01.006

[2] Ellis, Dr. B., & Bao, W. (2021). Pathways to decarbonisation episode two: steelmaking technology. BHP. https://www.bhp.com/news/prospects/2020/11/pathways-to-decarbonisation-episode-two-steelmaking-technology