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Coil Processing
Wednesday | 23 September, 2015 | 9:01 am

Bigger is better

By J. Neiland Pennington

Above: The Nelson Steel/Butech Bliss recoiler pulls strip through a hydraulic leveler. Back tension is provided through a stand ahead of the leveler.

A toll processor’s new line supplies quality P&O steel in quantities never before possible

September 2015 - Fulton County Processing operates a pickle-and-oil line plus three slitting lines at its Delta, Ohio, facility. Based on growing demand for its services, it became apparent that an output of 12,500 tons per month from its existing pickle line was inadequate. Although it featured two 12-foot-long acid spray tanks, the line could not keep pace. The company commissioned a replacement with nearly four times the capacity. The groundwork was laid late in 2013, and production began March 10, 2015.

The new line dwarfs the former operation. The 379-foot-long installation contains four pickling tanks, each 45 feet long, and has production capacity of 35,000 to 42,000 tons per month. The undertaking was a joint venture of Nelson Steel, Stoney Creek, Ontario (a division of Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd.), and Salem, Ohio-based Butech Bliss. Nelson Steel engineered the pickling technology; Butech Bliss built the terminal equipment.

The new line races along at averages of 280 to 340 feet per minute, and some coils run at 400 feet per minute, compared with the snail’s pace of 30 feet per minute for the old pickling line. At maximum output, Fulton County used to process as many as 18 coils in a 24-hour period. Now it’s 25 to 32 coils in one eight-hour shift.

The Nelson Steel/Butech Bliss line is housed in its own 385,000-square-foot building, says Jeff Kunkle, general manager of Fulton County Processing. “A portion of the [structure] houses the new line, and another portion is for inside storage of steel coils. We extended our rail spur so that we expanded from five railcars indoors to 10 to 12 railcars in the building.” The company purchased another 37 acres to enable the expansion.

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The new property and building include an outdoor yard that can store 1,800 to 2,000 incoming coils, with room for another 2,000 coils under roof. Finished goods have 120,000 square feet of indoor storage space.

Kunkle estimates the project cost $20 million but he’s predicting a rapid payback. “If the P&O market loosens up and we can get three full shifts on the line, we could amortize the line in four to six years,” he notes.

In some instances when a company expands capacity, the supplier finds a market. In this case, however, the market found the supplier. “Most of our existing customers were getting steel pickled elsewhere,” says Kunkle. “They told us that if we had a large pickle line, we’d get a lot more business from them.” The company began running two shifts immediately upon startup. “We had customers ready and waiting,” Kunkle adds. “They wanted us to get this going.”

The coil handling capacity is heavy duty. The coiler and recoiler support master coils up to 37 tons and thicknesses range from 0.05 inch to 0.5 inch. Width capacities are a maximum of 72 inches wide at 0.375-inch thick, and 60 inches at 0.5 inch.

Turbo Tunnel technology

Nelson Steel’s patented pickling technology is called Turbo Tunnel, and consists of four 45-foot-long pickling tanks and a four-stage spray rinse section constructed with polypropylene tanks. 

The Turbo Tunnel’s design features “a double cover system consisting of granite and glass fiber that covers the full length of the pickling tanks,” describes Graham Oakley, general manager of the Nelson Technology Group. “The double covers conserve acid and gas consumption, and ensure that all hydrochloric acid fumes are contained within the acid baths,” which prevents the build-up of corrosives.

The technology creates turbulence in the tanks for increased speed and efficiency. The double covers—or roofs—lie directly atop the acid level, which reduces fuming and heat loss, thereby cutting consumption of both acid and natural gas.

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Oakley explains how the metal moves through the acid stages: “AC vector motors, squeegee rolls and stands control strip movement and separate the different acid concentrations within each pickling tank.” Dual air cannons at the exit of the rinse bath remove all traces of liquid. A tank farm stores both fresh and spent acid.

Air quality is enhanced by a fume exhaust with a four-tray scrubber, along with a fiberglass exhaust fan. The equipment maintains stack emissions under one part per million, exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards; Kunkle calculates that the line is 10 times stricter than EPA regulations. The rinse effluent is safely discharged to the municipal sewer.

Nelson Steel built the programmable logic controls for the process section. It also furnished field service supervision for installation and commissioned the process equipment. Training for Fulton County’s line operators combined Nelson Steel for the P&O operation and Butech Bliss for the coil handling functions.

Moving the metal

The coil handling machinery includes an uncoiler with a double-stub mandrel to handle both 24-inch and 30-inch inside diameters. The recoiler has a 24-inch ID mandrel, with an outboard bearing to support the end of the shaft and eliminate deflection. Edge guides maintain even coiling.

Two crop shears are incorporated in the line. The first, at the infeed end, is a hydraulic unit that removes the head end of the coil to facilitate threading the strip. The second is at the outfeed and removes the fishtail, the necked-down end of the coil that is typically produced as the metal exits the hot-strip mill.

The line features a flattener and precision leveler. The five-roll flattener at the infeed removes coil set for threading, and the pull-through hydraulic roller-leveler at the exit is preceded by a stand that maintains back tension on the strip as it is recoiled.

Fulton County Processing already owned and operated the leveler. “When they shut down the other pickling line, they shipped the leveler back to us. We refurbished and updated it to the current state of the art in controls and electrics,” says Al Waigand, vice president of marketing at Butech Bliss. The upgraded unit “is designed to traverse on and off the line. If they are pickling material that won’t be leveled, they can move the leveler out of the line.”

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Strip thickness is measured and recorded automatically prior to the outfeed crop shear. An automated vision inspection system follows the leveler and documents the condition of the strip surface on both sides.

The “O” half of P&O is accomplished by an electrostatic spray. It applies a coating evenly and with controllable thickness, and eliminates overspray and spills. 

Easing uncertainties

When Fulton County Processing’s pickling line crews first saw the new equipment, they admitted to being thoroughly intimidated. “The first day we went to do training, the guys said they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to run it,” Waigand recalls. “We had a week of training, split two-thirds in the classroom and one-third on the line. I had two people that worked with me that are former pickle line operators. They spent time with both the cold commissioning and the hot commissioning, working with Fulton’s operators. By the end of the training program, Fulton County’s people were confident they could operate the new line.”

A crew of four operates the new installation, the same number needed for its predecessor. Nevertheless, the Nelson Steel/Butech Bliss P&O line has become an employment multiplier. 

“Since the beginning of the installation, I have been able to employ 18 new people, primarily crane operators and maintenance technicians,” Kunkle says, adding, “I would expect that [growth] to continue, with at least 10 more people [being hired] within the next year.” MM

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