New technology brightened future of Durgapur’s Alloy Steel Plant

New investment announcement by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) at the Alloy Steel Plant of Durgapur has brightened up the future prospect of the loss making unit of SAIL. Not only the employees of the ailing sick unit of the steel major at Durgapur, but every residents of the industrial town welcomed the news of the new investment and adopting more advanced technology.

SAIL and KOBE Steel officials along with the Steel Minister of India at the MoA signing function in Tokyo

India’s largest steel maker SAIL and Kobe Steel of Japan today inked the final pact of a memorandum of agreement at Kobe’s headquarters in Tokyo for setting up a 0.5 million tonne per annum iron nugget making plant using Kobe’s patented ITmK3 technology at SAIL’s Alloy Steels Plant in Durgapur, West Bengal, India with an investment of Rs. 1,500 crore.

SAIL and Kobe Steel had earlier signed an MoU on 30th March 2010 for conducting a joint feasibility study for exploring and commercialisation of ITmk3 technology developed by Kobe for production of iron nuggets used for steel production. The pre-feasibility study prima facie establishes that the project is economically viable.

ITMk3 is pronounced as “Eye-Tee Mark Three” and stands for “Iron Making Technology Mark Three”. This is a unique technology developed and owned by Kobe Steel Limited, Japan, for producing premium quality pig iron (nuggets). One of the features of ITmk3 process is that it can produce iron nuggets by utilising relatively low-grade iron ore fines and non-coking coal as major raw materials and does not require either iron ore lump or blast furnace coke/coking-coal. Also, ITmK3 does not require coke oven plant or sinter plant for producing iron nuggets. CO2 emission is also less as compared to production through the blast furnace route, making the technology very environment-friendly.

As per the agreement, SAIL and Kobe Steel will be entitled to equal share of production from the plant for captive use. A joint venture company ‘SAIL-Kobe Iron India Pvt. Ltd.’ in which SAIL and Kobe Steel hold equal equity, has already been incorporated.

The agreement was signed by SAIL Chairman Mr. C.S. Verma and Kobe Steel President & CEO Mr. N. Sato in the august presence of Shri Beni Prasad Verma, Union Minister for Steel, Govt. of India, Shri D.R.S. Chaudhary, Secretary (Steel), Govt. of India, Shri U.P. Singh, Joint Secretary (Steel), Govt. of India, and other senior Indian officials from SAIL & Kobe Steel including Shri Rakesh Kulshreshtha, Executive Director, SAIL & Chairman, SAIL-Kobe Iron India Pvt Limited.

Speaking on the occasion, Steel Minister Shri Beni Prasad Verma expressed his happiness at the joint venture of SAIL and Kobe Steel and was optimistic about more projects for the Indian steel industry with the help of Japanese technology. “The ITmK3 technology will also utilise dump iron ore fines, disposal of which has become an environmental issue,” he said.

Secretary (Steel) Shri D.R.S. Chaudhary assured that Ministry of Steel, Govt. of India would provide full support for the project. ITmK3 technology has successfully replaced coal as an input material for iron making and is recognised for its low energy consumption and environment friendliness, Shri Chaudhary added.

SAIL Chairman Mr. C.S. Verma remarked, “With this joint venture with Kobe, SAIL is going to achieve twin objectives of bringing in latest technology to the country, and also adopting environment-friendly processes. This will be a milestone in the history of SAIL, setting new benchmarks of international collaboration in the field of iron-making. This is the first step of our collaboration with Kobe which could extend to other areas in future.”

For production of 0.5 MT of iron nuggets, the plant to be set up at SAIL’s Alloy Steels Plant in Durgapur will require around 0.8 MT of iron ore fines per annum. The Gua Iron Ore Mines of SAIL will supply 0.64 MTpa of fines from fresh arising and 0.16 MTpa from dumped fines to meet this requirement. Output from the proposed plant will be shared between SAIL and Kobe Steel for captive use in their own plants/joint ventures.

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