Stainless Steel producer Aperam in Genk, Belgium has updated one of its annealing and pickling lines. The project involved extending the building for about 40 metres, work that was carried out while production continued. This called for meticulous planning and just a touch of inventiveness!
An unusual but brilliant idea
The annealing and pickling line is an essential component of the plant’s cold-rolled stainless steel production. It is a continuous process where the steel is heated to about 1100°C, cooled, dried, blasted and rinsed to then undergo electrolytic and chemical treatment to obtain a high surface quality. On the input side, steel coils are unrolled and automatically welded to form a continuous strip travelling through the different treatment stages at a steady pace. On the output side, the continuous sheet is cut to be rolled into coils once again.
Extending the building
Aperam Genk recently upgraded its second annealing and pickling line, called BUL2. This included, among other things, implementing new drive technology and optimising the strip tension control to accelerate the process. “It also required us to increase accumulation space for the continuous strip,” says Head of Engineering Danny Bielen. “This meant extending the building by about 40 metres at one side.”
A short timeframe
The extension work presented a number of challenges, the most important being that production downtime had to be reduced to a minimum. Danny Bielen explains: “The building extension had to be completed by October 2015 to allow the mechanical supplier to prepare his installation. Meanwhile, production would continue in the existing building and we would seize the opportunity of the end-of-year break to connect both parts by dismantling and reconstructing the last section of the existing building. We had just two weeks to complete it.”
Surprisingly, the solution even turned out to be less expensive because the crane could be dismantled for use in another project
Temporary overhead cranes
There was, however, an inherent risk in this approach. Bielen continues: “Most construction companies applying for the project indicated that they would need to remove the roof above the last section to allow a hydraulic mobile crane to be used for the connection work. This brought with it the risk of substantial delays in the event of unfavourable weather conditions. Fortunately, TCS came up with an unusual alternative that proved to be a brilliant idea: they proposed to install an extra overhead crane in the connection zone. This solution was far more efficient. Surprisingly, it even turned out to be less expensive because the crane could be dismantled afterwards and sold for use in another project.”
Engineering inventiveness and meticulous planning were equally important. “This was not the first time we have hired TCS, but they once again surprised us with their smart solutions and a carefully drawn up scenario for the dismantling and assembly work, including a plan for the onsite arrangement of steel elements. In this way they took no risks and could work very effectively within the available timeframe.”
- 610 m² building extension with a volume of 17,700 m³.
- 450 tonnes of structural steel.