Hyundai Steel's Dangjin plant brings green approach to steel

Hyundai Steel’s new blast furnace (right) at the company’s plant in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province. (Hyundai Steel)

With the second blast furnace kicking in, the annual production capacity of Hyundai Steel’s integrated steelworks in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province has doubled to 8 million tons.

While the Dangjin plant allowed Hyundai Steel to begin producing steel from the raw materials, which according to experts offers a higher profit margin than using electric arc furnaces, the facility has larger implications for Hyundai Motor Group as a whole.

By adding blast furnaces to its operations, Hyundai Motor Group was able to complete what it calls “resource circulating business structure” that goes from molten iron to automobiles, and from scrap back to unprocessed steel.

Under the resource circulating business structure, steel produced at the Dangjin plant will be processed by Hyundai Hysco into cold-rolled products, which will then be used in Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp.’s vehicles.

The steel from scrapped vehicles will then be melted down at Hyundai Steel’s electric blast furnace and used to produce construction materials, which will be used by the group’s construction arm Amco.

However, Hyundai Steel’s move upstream in the steel industry comes at a time when environmental concerns are rising.

The steel industry has long been considered to be one of the more serious polluters, and the use of coal as a raw material in steelmaking with blast furnaces highly carbon intensive.

Hyundai Steel’s Dangjin plant, however, was built with such concerns in mind from the designing process.

In building the plant, the company installed the world’s first enclosed raw material processing system as part of its efforts to make it a “world-class eco-friendly steelworks.”

In Hyundai Steel’s system, all movement of materials from ship to processing facilities occur on enclosed conveyor belts. In addition, the materials are stored in dome-shaped stores cutting off all contact with open air, addressing the problem of dust from coal and other materials ― a major pollutant associated with steelworks ― at the source.

According to the company the enclosed domes also help save space in storing the materials.

Hyundai Steel estimates that the dome stores are about 2.5 times more efficient in terms of iron ore storage per unit area.

In addition, Dangjin plant’s enclosed storage facilities also allow the company to save fuel, which in turn helps reduce its carbon footprint.

According to Hyundai Steel, the facilities maintain the water content of the materials constant at between 6 to 8 percent. In contrast, materials stored outside can contain up to 14 percent water during the rainy season, and this water needs to be evaporated leading to additional energy costs.

However, the effect of eco-friendly technologies is not limited to the more obvious benefits of reducing pollution, but extends to the productivity of companies and nations.

According to a report by Oh Dong-hyun of the Samsung Economic Research Institute, Korea ranks third among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with an average annual growth rate of 4.84 percent.
However, the country ranks 22nd in terms of green productivity, which takes into account the effects “non-economic” by-products, such as greenhouse gases, have on the economy, among the 32 OECD member nations.

According to the SERI report, green management’s core consists of three Rs; reduce, replace and recycle.

In addition to the groundbreaking enclosed raw material storage system, Hyundai Steel’s Dangjin plant has a number of features for meeting various areas of the three Rs of green management.

According to the company, the Dangjin plant is capable of recycling almost 100 percent of the by-products of steel making.

The company said that nearly all of the coal tar and sulfur produced from processing the gas generated in producing coke is used to produce a range of chemicals including benzene and toluene, while the slag is used in blended cement and used to form roadbeds and as structural material in buildings.

In addition to recycling by-products, the company has a number of measures for processing waste water, and monitoring and reducing emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides.

According to the company, gases generated during steel making at the Dangjin plant under go a two-step process to bring sulfur and nitrogen oxides content to well below the legal limits.

Waste water generated at the plant is subjected to chemical and biological processing to maximize recycling, while the unused processed waste water is returned to the sea 300 meters away from the coastline to minimize pollution.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldm.com)
http://www.koreaherald.com/business/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20101123000707

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