In 2006, the merger of Mittal Steel with the french Arcelor Group created the largest steel producer in the world which produces a tenth of the world’s steel. On the Fos-sur-Mer site of the steel producer near Marseille, one of the two blast furnaces (HF 1) was completely renovated in only 95 days. 600 companies were involved and two years’ work invested in the preparation alone. A major part of the project was the renovation of the blast furnace automation system. This was done by installing Profibus along with 1800 field devices networked together.
Renovating a blast furnace is a project amounting to 150 million euros. Time schedules were extremely tight. There was no room for trial runs; every day idle is one less day of production. The user´s automation and electronics manager has calculated that over 2,000 people have put in a million working hours for renovating HF 1.
1,100 sensors for flow, pressure and temperature measurements have been installed directly on the blast furnace and another 700 in other parts of the plant such as the gas cleaning unit and slag processing, all linked digitally to Profibus. The engineers met for the first time on site – and quickly developed into an efficient team. Commissioning was quick and went without a hitch. In order to avoid any delays, all sensors had already been configured and tested before leaving the supplier plant, one of the numerous advantages of Profibus.
As HF 1 was back in operation, the new technology is scarcely visible, but it has changed a lot. For the conservative steel industry, which depends on reliability and is therefore cautious about new innovations, fieldbus technology represents a first. Before being introduced on a large scale, the technology has passed very successfully some probationary tests in a small section of HF 1. The user´s conclusion: “We didn’t just want sensors, the entire Profibus technology was vital too; we have built for the next two decades here – and now we’re leaving future generations of steel smelters a technology that is really trailblazing.”