ArcelorMittal Belgium inaugurates blast furnace of the future

March 3, 2021

ArcelorMittal Belgium has officially inaugurated its blast furnace B in Ghent, following a significant investment to renew the furnace, making it one of the world’s most modern and efficient blast furnaces, both in terms of productivity and CO2 emissions.

The new blast furnace, that was given an optimal shape, was completely relined and is equipped with state of the art automation systems. This investment will further enable steelmaking to be at the heart of the circular economy and help the company lower CO2 emissions and achieve its climate objectives, through more efficient fuel consumption, through the recycling of wood waste and through the injection of waste gases as well as end-of-life plastics. 

State-of-the-art technology

As part of the project, the design of the renewed blast furnace was optimised to make the blast furnace process more efficient, with expert teams from ArcelorMittal’s R&D centres in Spain and France working closely with ArcelorMittal Ghent. Thanks to the relining, blast furnace B is now one of the most advanced blast furnaces worldwide, with unrivalled productivity. The site’s Industrial IT, Automation and Model department led the automation aspect of the project, switching to a new PLC platform with a modern user interface and extensive diagnostic facilities (among other things on the basis of the measurement of temperature, pressure). The safety aspects were also thoroughly revised and enhanced. In addition, a new network infrastructure was put in place, the process computer software was adapted and the models optimised for controlling the new blast furnace. Around 5,000 tons of steel and 3,000 tons of refractory material were used for the blast furnace relining 265 kilometres of electric cables were drawn.

Circular vision of the future

The relining of the blast furnace will play a significant role in reducing the site’s CO2 emissions and achieving its climate objectives, for example through more efficient fuel consumption. In addition, ArcelorMittal Belgium is committed to contributing to the EU’s ambitious climate objectives in the framework of The Green Deal. The Ghent relining project will contribute to ArcelorMittal Europe’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030 compared with 2018. As a group, ArcelorMittal has an ambition to be climate neutral by 2050. These actions are also fully in line with the ArcelorMittal Group’s climate strategy as described in the “Climate Action Report“.

In the blast furnaces, ArcelorMittal Ghent plans to replace fossil carbon with green and circular carbon, and green and circular hydrogen. ‘Fresh’ raw materials will increasingly be replaced with waste products, in an environmentally and economically feasible way. The Torero project, which will be commissioned in 2022, allows us to pre-treat waste wood from container parks to produce biocarbon suitable for the blast furnace process. We also have two projects running with plastic waste that could be injected into the blast furnaces in the form of powder or gas. We are also working on the possibility of replacing fossil carbon with hydrogen.

Central to a successful transition will be supportive policy to ensure a global level playing field, access to renewable energy at affordable prices, energy infrastructure and access to sustainable finance.  We are therefore particularly grateful for the support that we have already received from the Flemish government in this context.

Approach of safety and corona

The blast furnace relining was not only a challenge on the (environmentally) technical level, but also and especially on the safety level, with more than 1,000 internal and external collaborators working on the construction site at the same time every day. In addition, the construction site required a specific approach because of Coronavirus:

  • Ground rules: Throughout our company, we have three ground rules that must be strictly adhered to in order to prevent the spread of the virus: good hand hygiene, a social distance of 1.5 meters and the obligation to wear a face mask. Safety ambassadors supported compliance around the clock.
  • Tests: In collaboration with an external prevention agency, a test module has been set up to carry out Coronavirus sampling on our site in an easily accessible way. Meanwhile, we analyse these test samples ourselves in a safe and fast manner in a new medical laboratory on the ArcelorMittal Ghent site.
  • Temperature checks: The temperature of all employees is monitored daily at the entrance of our ArcelorMittal Ghent site as well as at the construction site zone. Random checks are also carried out during working hours.
  • Contact tracing: A contact tracing app developed in-house made it possible to quickly identify with whom, for how long and from how close a colleague infected with Coronavirus had contact at the workplace.

“With the relining of blast furnace B, ArcelorMittal Belgium is realizing one of its objectives in terms of innovation, sustainability and circularity. The total approach that is being put forward here in Ghent is a classic example of ambition and vision in a challenging global context. As Minister-President, I can only express my appreciation for this.”

Jan Jambon (Minister-President of the Flemish Government)

“I would like to thank not only the project team but also all of the more than 5,000 colleagues within ArcelorMittal Belgium and many colleagues within the ArcelorMittal Group for their efforts and support for this promising project. Everyone gave the best of themselves to make this blast furnace relining a success, in particularly challenging times due to the Coronavirus. With our renewed state-of-the-art blast furnace, we have paved the way for a promising sustainable future!”

Manfred Van Vlierberghe (CEO ArcelorMittal Belgium)

Contact person

Jan Cornelis

Tel.: +32 (0)9 347 35 72 / +32 (0)499 599 394