SSAB - A highly specialized steel company

In part three of our article series on raw materials including mining operations and related industry in Northern Sweden, we highlight SSAB and its operations in the City of Luleå. SSAB is a leading producer in the global market for advanced high-strength steels. The steels delivered by SSAB make the world lighter, stronger and more sustainable for instance by lower energy consumption in vehicles.

North Sweden European Office carries out monitoring and lobby activities in a number of areas including raw materials in accordance to the assignment by our owners. The raw materials area comprises a platform for dialogue with the European Commission and other European institutions on long-term and sustainable regional development to be introduced as an integral part of the EU's work with the raw materials initiatives in the Northern areas of the EU and more particularly in the County of Norrbotten and the County of Västerbotten, beside the commodity economy.

In order to highlight the importance of the raw materials sector to regional growth, we have initiated a series of articles on the mining industries in Norrbotten and Västerbotten in Northern Sweden. In the third issue of the series we will draw attention to SSAB and its operations in the City of Luleå.

SSAB is a highly specialized steel company on the global market. The company is a leading producer of advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) and quenched and tempered steel (Q & T) steel sheet and plate, tubular products and design solutions in the construction sector.

SSAB's plant in Luleå refines iron pellets from LKAB in Malmberget and Kiruna to approx. 200 different kinds of steel each with different characteristics depending on the area of use and application. SSAB in Luleå delivers approx. two million tons of steel slabs to SSAB's rolling mill in Borlänge for processing each year. The steel is used in most commodities and products e.g. cars, household appliances, ventilation systems, ships and much more.

We also want to draw attention to the second call for commitments in the framework of the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials (EIP RM), launched by the European Commission on 1 December 2015. The objective of the Commitments is to mobilize the critical mass of resources at the entire value chain of raw materials required to implement measures that will contribute to fulfil the goals set in the EIP RM. The call will close March 1, 2016.

/Mona Mansour

SSAB - a highly specialized steel company on the global market

SSAB is a highly specialized steel company on the global market. The company is a leading producer of advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) and quenched and tempered steel (Q & T) steel sheet and plate, tubular products and design solutions in the construction sector.

SSAB has over 17.000 employees and production facilities around the world: Europe, Asia, the Americas, Oceania and Africa. The company has an annual steel production of approximately 8.8 million tons of steel. SSAB is a market leader in selected sectors and in the markets primarily address. Globally, the company is a major player in high-strength steel, specifically Q&T steels and AHSS steel. In the Nordic, SSAB has approx. 50% of the market share in flat-steel products such as steel sheet and plate, as well as steel tubes, and is the only Nordic producer of these types of steel products. In North America, SSAB accounts for a quarter of the market for heavy plate.

High-tensile steel

SSAB produces several kinds of advanced steel of high strength and one of the strongest on the market, making it a superior alternative when it comes to the automotive and transportation industry. The use of this type of strong yet lightweight steel reduces carbon dioxide emissions, which improves fuel efficiency, reduces costs and increases security.

Steel production in Luleå

The SSAB production plant in Luleå derived from an ironworks from the 1950s and Norrbotten Ironworks AB, a company which at that time was government-owned, but has been listed on the stock market since the late 1980s. The ironworks was located in Luleå, given the proximity to iron ore. In the 1960s production and sales increased, and the company became the second-largest producer of steel in Sweden, with an annual output of 400.000 tons and net sales of 60 billion SEK.

This facility in Luleå purchases iron pellets from LKAB in Malmberget and Kiruna, which are processed into different grades. This concerns about 200 kinds of steel, all with different characteristics depending on the area. Each year, metallurgy in Luleå supplies about two million tons of steel slabs to the SSAB rolling mill in Borlänge for processing. The steel is used in most of what we have around us: cars, appliances, ventilation systems, ships and more.

The blast furnace in Luleå is one of five SSAB furnaces in the Nordic countries. During the summer of 2015, this blast furnace was renovated after having been in continuous operation for over 15 years. The renovation of the company's blast furnaces contributes to increased efficiency and reduced environmental impact. The renovation will reduce costs and halve the emissions of dust. The blast furnace, which was already among the most carbon-efficient in the world, is operationally secured and prepared for production for 15-20 years.

District heating - a part of the steel cycle

One part of SSAB's environmental work is recycling, and making use of residues and waste. A clear example of this commitment is the work of district heating in Luleå. The CHP Lulekraft AB is jointly owned by Luleå Energi and SSAB, and provides the bulk of Luleå's district heating, and also produces electricity. The fuel for the power plant will burn excess gas from the manufacturing of sheet metal at SSAB's production plant in Luleå. Lulekraft is a leading provider of district heating in Sweden with the lowest prices and minimum environmental impact.

Railways and radio controlling

To withstand the around the clock operations, railways and radio control are two important factors at SSAB´s facilities in Luleå. Melted raw iron is transported by railway directly from the blast furnace to the steel mills, to become steel products. This places high demands on the control and accuracy of rail transport.

In 2000, SSAB invested in a new state-of-the-art blast furnace in Luleå, with the aim of providing a consistent high production with top quality. At the same time SSAB also aimed to improve and streamline the management of locomotives transporting the raw iron from the blast furnace to the steel mill; about 15 km of railway transports iron, iron residues and steel.

The locomotives pull a so-called torpedo wagon; a tank for molten pig iron formed like a torpedo and lined with brick 120 tons to withstand heat. The wagon is filled with 300 tons of molten 1500-degree-hot metal from the blast furnace, and then transported to the steel plant. A fully-loaded torpedo wagon weighs around 600 tons. Until 2000 the wagons were guided and handled manually, which required a minimum of two persons per locomotive. These people also needed to be able to communicate by radio, but misunderstandings occurred because of the working environment. In order to increase efficiency and safety of transport, SSAB in Luleå changed systems from manual to radio control. 

With remote controlled, only one person is needed to handle the locomotives. It has improved efficiency and increased security. The driver now has full control over how to run the locomotive, when to start and brake. The engineer can run the locomotive from the ground or on board the locomotive using an “Åkerström transmitter” that is attached to a carrying device on the belly of the vehicle. The signals from the transmitter are received by ATC (Automatic Train Control), which is installed in each radio-controlled locomotive. ATC is also available on locomotives in passenger transport. Railway traffic at the SSAB area is completely controlled by the Railway Inspectorate, like all other rail traffic in Sweden.

Production every hour, all year around

When the raw melted iron has been processed to the desired state to large lots of 25 tons, they cool and are then transported on wagons to the steel mill in Borlänge. Following an agreement made in 2008, the company Green Cargo handles SSAB´s shipments of iron products in Sweden. Three trains run daily in the direction Lulea - Borlänge. If the equivalent amount of iron products were transported in any other way it would, for example, require more than 300 trucks a day. SSAB is one of the most extensive users of rail transportation in Sweden.

In the agreement with Green Cargo, which extends to 2019, SSAB demanded that the transportations would be made with modern, powerful and energy-efficient locomotives. Hence, Green Cargo invested half a billion SEK in 16 new electric locomotives. These new trains will reduce the energy consumption of steel transports by 15 %.

In compliance with the new contract, all SSAB diesel locomotives running inside SSAB’s facilities were replaced by modern electric locomotives, further reducing emissions by about 20 %

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