The project is being run by Swerim, the metals research institute within the scope of the Metallic Materials strategic innovation program. By optimizing electric heating solutions for large scale furnaces, the project hopes to encourage the transition away from traditional gas-powered heating. This is an important contribution in reducing CO2 emissions from the steel industry.
The project will include simulations using different parameters for electric heating, which will be adapted for low alloy steel, stainless steel and nickel-based alloys. Adaptations will also be made for various product shapes such as slabs, blooms and billets, in order to capture geometric variations. The intention is to find the optimal combinations of inductive and resistive heating, taking into account temperature uniformity and energy efficiency. Based on these simulations, a pilot plant will be constructed by rebuilding a walking beam furnace in Luleå, Sweden, which is expected to be complete by 2023.
Kanthal will provide its Kanthal® Super MoSi2 heating elements for the pilot plant, as well as its extensive experience from providing heating solutions to the steel industry. “We are happy to be able to share our expertise, but it is also an opportunity for us to learn more about the requirements in these types of applications,” says Thomas Helander, Kanthal’s R&D expert for high temperature materials. “We will be working together with end-users in the steel industry as well as researchers, and we will learn just as much from them as they will hopefully learn from us.”
When completed, the Luleå pilot plant will provide a proof of concept and demonstrator of the possibilities offered by electric heating. It will also be used for further testing and evaluation of possible solutions for large-scale heating, made available as a test bed for experiments and trials when it comes to using different materials and parameters.
At its plant in Hallstahammar, Sweden, Kanthal already has a functioning walking beam furnace which has been using electric heating for over 30 years. However, the ELROS project is aiming at providing an independent demonstration facility showing electric heating solutions on a larger scale.
The main challenges will be the size of the furnace – now we will be dealing megawatts, and no one has much experience when it comes to this scale,
“The main challenges will be the size of the furnace – now we will be dealing megawatts, and no one has much experience when it comes to this scale,” says Helander. “We need to demonstrate that not only can electric heating provide the required heat but that it is also a reliable solution for this type of furnace. These furnaces are critical and need to operate continuously.”
Sandvik Materials Technology is also participating in the project and will test the new technology. The company aims to reduce its CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and sees improving the efficiency of its heating processes as a key part of this. "There are technologies that allow electrification of our processes already today, but we're interested in achieving even higher efficiency,” says Jan Haraldsson, Manager R&D Metallurgy at Sandvik Materials Technology.
If successful, the ELROS project is expected to make an important contribution to the steel industry’s transition to fossil-free production. “I look forward to being a part of the steel industry's conversion and electrification of its manufacturing processes,” says Andreas Johnsson, senior researcher at Swerim and project manager for ELROS. “I am happy to work with some of the leading companies in the steel industry and suppliers of heating technology equipment.”