In steel plants, the blast furnaces, once production of hot metal has started, run continuously for 10 to 15 years before they are put down again for relining. If, for some reasons, production stops or must be stopped in between, tremendous financial losses may occur. Consequently, all secondary processes of the plant such as the pulverized coal injection process PCI (used as carbon source to speed up metallic iron production) must run extremely stable and under best possible preventive maintenance control to avoid any shut down. Recently, a well known German steel plant decided to build an entirely new PCI plant for feeding two blast furnaces and to use fieldbus technology (PROFIBUS) as control and communication network for this project.
A “four-stage-concept” was applied to reach this challenging goal: (1) The whole project, from planning up to installation and operation of the plant was/is based on just one single specification to minimize misunderstandings and incompatibilities; (2) Market leader PROFIBUS was elected as fieldbus technology because of its exceptional high number of installations and proved operational performance; (3) Precautions were taken for efficient preventive maintenance efforts during operation, such as segmented network design, network and communication diagnosis and monitoring etc., and (4) an experienced service provider has been involved from the very beginning of the project for detailed consulting.
Installation, commissioning and operation of the new PROFIBUS system have been at no time in any critical phase. This positive experience with technology and conceptual procedure of this project has convinced the steel plant management that PROFIBUS technology was the right decision to enable continuous operation of their blast furnaces.