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Tuesday | 15 August, 2017 | 12:45 pm

Walking the talk

By Lynn Stanley

Above: The new finishing line will increase the Longueuil bar mill’s rolling capacity from 400,000 to 500,000 tons per year.

Bar mill’s new finishing line promotes faster, safer cutting and packaging of sustainable materials

August 2017 - Customers want suppliers to “put their money where their mouth is” when it comes to value-added steel products. That means one should demonstrate with actions, not just words, that one supports or believes in something. This is exactly what ArcelorMittal Long Products Canada did when it launched a new Cdn. $27 million finishing line at its Longueuil, Quebec, bar mill in June 2017.

The mill is part of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker with a presence in more than 60 countries. Long Products Canada is working on a five-year capital plan that started in 2016 alongside the launch of the Belgium-based corporation’s Action 2020 plan. The local investment maintains about 200 bar mill jobs and is part of Long Products Canada’s ongoing modernization program—nearly $300 million has been invested in the effort since 2008.

The company installed a Cdn. $24 million furnace in 2013, which improved the Longueuil plant’s efficiency and reduced both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The original plant, which opened in 1974, is considered a linchpin of ArcelorMittal’s global plan to increase rolling mill capacity.

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More bang for the buck

“We started shifting some of our production a few years ago to valued-added products that require an extended focus on quality,” says Louis-Philippe Péloquin, director of communications for ArcelorMittal Long Products Canada. “The new finishing line is part of a strategy to build customer loyalty and provide safe and reliable production of new steel products. The line will promote faster and safer cutting and packaging of our products, reduce downtime and ensure our packaging pattern meets market requirements.”

Long Products Canada produces more than 2 million tons of steel annually from iron ore and recycled scrap. In addition to special-bar quality and merchant bars, the supplier processes continuous cast slabs and billets, wire rod and drawn wire. Applications range from new highway construction to major projects like the Hibernia and Hebron oil drilling platforms. “The bar mill is the world’s largest supplier of steel used in leaf springs for major automotive manufacturers of light and heavy duty trucks,” says Péloquin. “We are also the largest Canadian rebar manufacturer for the construction industry.”

The company forecasts “a constant and stable demand for the long products we manufacture over the next five years,” continues Péloquin. “Market needs are primarily being fueled by stronger construction and automotive segments and the ongoing ramp-up of the energy sector in North America.”

The new bar line includes a multistrand straightener, cold shear, four-section automatic stacker, strapping devices and conveyors. Installation took 18 months.

“Our bar mill operated throughout most of the construction work,” notes Péloquin. “It was a logistics challenge, but the fact that the mill remained in full swing speaks to the resilience and tenacity of our employees.”

The bar line will be used to expand the supplier’s offering, which will include angles used in the construction of pylons and building structures. “We see a lot of opportunity for this product in Eastern Canada in the short to long term,” says Péloquin. He acknowledges the supplier has other new products in its pipeline.

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In addition to special-bar quality and merchant bars, the company makes continuous cast slabs and billets, rolls wire rod and draws wire.

Sustainable steel

As Long Products Canada expands its repertoire, ArcelorMittal is also working to understand the importance of customers’ sustainability strategies. “We feel like this side of the equation often goes unrecognized,” says Péloquin. “Steel not only allows products to be lighter, which results in reduced carbon emissions, but it is easily and infinitely recyclable. Additionally, compared to competing materials, steel has a smaller environmental footprint.”

Equipping itself with the right technology positions the steelmaker to tackle inherent challenges. “Regular investment in product innovations is one way to maintain our leadership role and create products that meet both our customers’ business and sustainability objectives,” Péloquin explains. “For example, car manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada are required to meet lightweighting goals while maintaining safety standards. Pursuit of new ideas and breakthroughs has positioned steel to offer advantages in those areas.”

Expanding market demand for lighter and stronger steel compelled ArcelorMittal to partner with various stakeholders to gain a better understanding of specific needs. “We have an opportunity to demonstrate that steel’s environmental footprint is smaller than competing materials and will continue to drive industry-leading lifecycle analysis,” Péloquin says.

There are several facts that point to steel as being one answer to environmental challenges. According to Péloquin, “One ton of steel produces less carbon dioxide₂than aluminum, magnesium or carbon fiber if measured over the course of its lifetime.” New high-strength steel varieties continue to advance the metal’s ability to make cars lighter, reduce emissions and help customers meet government regulations that are growing increasingly stringent.

Improving steel’s strength-to-weight ratio also makes for more efficient and effective structures. “Lighter and stronger steel is making construction easier, requiring less energy to move and assemble, and needing less extensive foundations,” he says.

A 2015 sustainable development report conducted by ArcelorMittal states that customer interests in zero-energy or positive energy buildings is one focus of the company’s research and development. Work includes models that directly integrate renewable energy sources into buildings through steel products.​ MM

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