Our drone pictures of 2019
2019 was a year of actual ups and downs. Each month, we took a look at a different part of the thyssenkrupp Steel universe via our animated drone images.
The only thing that remained consistent was the bird’s-eye view from which they were taken. Take another quick look through all the images from the past year here.
Our December drone image: slag processing in Duisburg
- What is slag?
Slag is a mixture of calcium, magnesium, aluminum, and iron oxide that is added to blast or metallurgical furnaces during smelting to remove impurities from iron ore or steel scrap. Along with that, it also protects the liquid metal from outside oxygen and maintains the required temperature by forming a lid. As slag is lighter than the molten metal, it floats and can be easily removed.
- What happens to the slag after this?
The slag, while still molten, is poured into slag beds to cool down. In the next step, it is transferred to the processing plant where the slag is recycled once it has cooled and hardened.
- What are possible uses for recycled slag?
Slag from steelworks or blast ovens is a great substitute for crushed stones such as diabase, basalt, or graywacke. After the slag is treated, it is processed to create ecological products in accordance with the relevant environmental guidelines. These products, for example, are used in road construction, in landscaping work, as drainage material in sports fields and riding grounds, as a raw material for asphalt layers, and to create anti-frost layers when constructing roads.
Our November drone image
- What sort of buildings can be seen here?
That’s the hot strip center in southern Duisburg. It was built by Mannesmann as a cold-rolling mill in the 1960s before it was taken over by August Thyssen-Hütte at the start of the 1970s. But there is little to remind us of how it was back then since the mill has developed into a cutting-edge hot strip center over the last few decades.
- Who receives the hot-rolled strip that is produced here?
The hot-rolled strip is primarily produced for the automotive industry and is used for pipe manufacturing. We send the majority of our hot-rolled strip directly to the end customers. The rest is supplied to customers in the processing industry, such as cold-rolling production facilities and automotive suppliers via the Steel Service Center.
- Where does the material that is processed here come from?
The primary material comes from Hot Strip Plant 2 in Beeckerwerth, the casting-rolling line in Bruckhausen, as well as Hot Strip Plant 1 in Bruckhausen, and Hot Strip Plant 3 in Bochum. By the way, the material isn’t delivered by truck; it’s mainly delivered via the well-connected rail network.
- Who works here?
The staff is split into three teams. The conveyor belt team is responsible for the turbulence pickler, hot strip slitting plants 1 and 2, and for the Duo re-rolling stand. The logistics team takes care of the cranes, coil storage, and sending coils directly to customers, while the technical team is divided between electrical and mechanical operation.
Our October drone image
- What does this image from a bird’s eye view show?
The image shows the factory premises of thyssenkrupp’s Precision Steel business unit, located in the Oege district of Hohenlimburg. The unit is also celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. The cooling towers can be seen in the upper right corner, and on the right side are the cooling beds where the material is cooled after hot rolling.
- Which river borders the facility?
The river in the image is the Lenne, which we unfortunately cannot use for transport because it is too narrow and shallow. A retention basin for removing water for production is located on the edge of the premises.
- When is this necessary?
Our precision strip line on which our precidur® product is rolled features a water circuit, meaning that the water that is needed is continuously fed into the cycle. However, over time the water diminishes due to evaporation, for example. This is then replenished from the Lenne.
Our September drone image
- What are we looking at here?
The drone is positioned directly above the slab warehouse in Duisburg-Beeckerwerth. But this is a mere fraction of it – the slab warehouse is 470 meters long and 32 meters wide in total. It shares a border with Hot Strip Plant 2, which is equipped with six reheating ovens. This is where slabs are heated to their rolling temperature and rolled into hot-rolled strips, before being wound into coils.
- What stage of steel production does this represent?
This is one of the most crucial stages, as it is the interlude between the slab and hot-rolled strip production processes. The slabs either come directly from the continuous casting plant here in Beeckerwerth or other locations such as Bruckhausen.
- How are the slabs delivered to and from the site?
They are usually delivered here by train – you can spot the railroad cars on the bottom edge of the image. You can see the feed conveyor at the top edge of the image: It consists of 494 electrically operated rollers in total. The slabs are placed on them using gantry cranes and transported to individual ovens in the hot strip plant. Two out of our four gantry cranes feature magnets, while the two others have tongs. The latter are able to grab onto very hot, non-magnetic slabs.
- What are your criteria for storing the slabs?
Our main requirement is to adhere to the delivery date so that the customer receives the material on schedule. We stack the slabs on top of each other. It’s important to ensure when doing so that they are always put in the correct order. We have to make sure that the top slabs are the next slabs to be placed on the roller conveyor. We also have to observe safety regulations – for example, we cannot place wide slabs on top of narrow slabs. This ensures that the slab stack does not topple over. By the way, placing them on top of each other doesn’t impact their quality in the slightest.
Our August drone image
- What do we have a bird’s eye view of here?
In particular, the three breathtaking sand towers in this drone image catch the viewer’s eye. Their characteristic shape comes from the fact that the slag sand falls from the screening plant (on the left in the image) in a specific place and can reach a maximum of ten meters tall. The expansive warehouse is located at thyssenkrupp Steel’s Schwelgern plant in Duisburg, Germany.
- What is slag sand?
Slag sand is created through the fast, abrupt cooling of hot blast-furnace slag with water. Through this process of granulation, the liquid slag freezes and can be processed further in the screening plant into avaluable, highly popular by-product of pig iron production.
- Who purchases slag sand?
High-quality, finely milled slag sand is used in the cement industry and is a key component in blast-furnace cements. Concretes made from cements that contain slag sand are often identified by their light-gray, almost white coloring.
- What advantages are offered by the material?
Thanks to its physical and chemical properties, concretes made from these cements are particularly resistant to chemicals such as sulfates, for example. It also takes longer to hydrate cements containing slag sand, which leads to a lower hydration heat. In turn, this prevents cracks forming due to restraint stresses caused by thermal expansion and is important especially in large concrete constructions such as bridge piers, dams, large foundations, or locks. Last but not least, the manufacturing process of cements containing slag sand require less primary energy, meaning it generates fewer CO2 emissions than manufacturing other types.
Our July drone image
- What can we see here?
Our drone has captured an image of Precision Steel business unit’s so-called coil rinsing facility in Hohenlimburg, Germany. The precidur®-trade mark, hot-rolled coils were first transported from the precision strip mill to the cooling system using a coil loader. Cooling the hot-rolled precision strip coils is just one production step of the many that make up the entire manufacturing process; but it is a regular one.
- How hot are the coils when they arrive for cooling?
The coils are still around 600°C when they reach the cooling unit. They are then steadily rinsed in the unit with cold water that is around 25°C in temperature, before they then level off to about room temperature over time. It generally takes 24 hours for the coils to cool down completely.
- Where does the cooling water come from?
This circulation system is fed with water that has been recycled from the precision strip mill. A certain amount evaporates naturally during the process, which is then replenished from the Lenne, a tributary of the Ruhr, the downstream section of which passes through Hohenlimburg.
- What happens with the coils after they have been cooled?
They must first be cooled down completely, so they are strung in the warehouse. Then, we either transport the coils to the next units in the process (pickling line, annealing, or the splitting plant ), or we pack them up and ship them directly to the customer, depending on their requirements.
Our June drone image
- What can be seen here?
The four cooling towers with their hexagonal, cylindrical shape are the most striking feature. The two round pools also catch the eye. These are the “circular clarifiers.”
- So what do these circular clarifiers do?
They are part of the cooling and water recycling system for the blast furnaces. To produce steel, large quantities of water are needed at various stages of production, and the quality of the water needed at each stage is different. thyssenkrupp’s steel business requires approximately one billion cubic meters of water each year – 97 percent of this being recycled water.
- That’s an impressive figure. How is this achieved?
We operate water circulation systems at all our locations, in which the water is used up to 40 times before either being evaporated or discharged as cleaned waste water. thyssenkrupp’s steel business is committed to water protection and to conserving water as a natural resource.
In addition to protecting water resources, minimizing the quantities of waste water, and disposing of waste water safely, this also means that in the plants, great importance is placed on careful handling of substances that are hazardous to water.
- The best evidence of this is living on site...
Exactly. We have wildlife taking up residence in our plant grounds. Some years ago a carp moved into one of the water pools that was no longer in use. Our colleagues christened him Kuno, and since then he has started a family. Vegetation has now taken over some parts of the pond, creating a mini-habitat for wildlife – a carp pool right next door to the pig iron production facility.
Our May drone image
- What are we looking at here?
The camera drone is located above one of the largest private inland ports in Germany, the Schwelgern Port. This is the larger of the two plant ports owned by thyssenkrupp Steel. The company uses these ports to ensure the raw materials supply for the components used to produce pig iron.
- What raw materials are these, and where are they from?
These raw materials are iron ore, coal, imported coke, and various aggregates. The ores are from Brazil, Canada, and Australia. The coal also comes from Canada and Australia – as well as from the U.S., Africa, and Asia.
- How are the raw materials transported?
They’re transported from Rotterdam to Duisburg via the Europoort harbor. The push boat fleet from the Dutch subsidiary thyssenkrupp Veerhaven is used in the process. This consists of push barges – these are transportation units that are approximately 80 meters long and can carry loads of up to 2,700 metric tons. Numerous push barges are connected with one another and pushed up and down the Rhine by a push boat.
- What stage of steel production does this represent?
The very beginning, or, more precisely, before pig iron production. From the Schwelgern Port, the raw materials are brought to the plant. Beforehand, the raw materials are mined and then temporarily stored at the seaports. After they are transported to our plant port, we store the raw materials until they are used.
Our April drone image
What is a blast furnace used for?
The blast furnace is the core component of any steel mill. Its purpose is to produce pig iron, the most important iron resource for the production of crude steel.
How does a blast furnace work?
Pig iron is made by melting ore, coke, sinter, pellets and other additives in the blast furnace. Hot air is required to start the chemical reaction in the furnace. This air is supplied by the hot blast stoves at up to 1300 °C. It is blown into the lower part of the blast furnace and ignites the lowest coke layer. The gases, which can reach temperatures of up to 2,200 °C, rise upwards and heat the solids that are fed from above. After about six to seven hours, the finished pig iron can be tapped off.
What material is a blast furnace made of?
The interior of the furnace vessel is lined with refractory brick. The structure is surrounded by a steel frame.
Which plant components can be seen from the air?
The two circular clarifiers in the upper right corner are easy to spot. They are used for cooling and waste water treatment in blast furnaces. The cooling tower can be seen at the right edge of the image, closer to the center. The hot blast stoves are located below the tower.
Right next to them is the hot blast stove exhaust gas stack of blast furnace 9, which is easy to find thanks to its colorful stripes. The rectangular building below it is the cast house of blast furnace 9. It is adjacent to blast furnace 9, the plant from which white steam is emerging in the image. The tall red building on the bottom left is blast furnace 8. The three circular silver buildings are the hot blast stoves of blast furnace 8. The office building, which also houses the control center for the two blast furnaces, is located directly beside the car park.
Our March drone image
- Why does thyssenkrupp Steel have its own railway operation?
The plants are supplied with raw materials by rail, and finished steel products are also transported to other thyssenkrupp locations and customers. At the Duisburg location, this amounts to around 64 million tons of material each year. The plant railway transports raw materials such as ore, coal, coke, sinter and lime to the blast furnaces and liquid pig iron from the blast furnaces to the steelworks. The slabs are then transported to the hot strip mills and the coils produced there are moved to the downstream processing units.
- What is the purpose of the ‘Grünstrasse’ marshalling yard shown here?
Wagons loaded with raw or finished materials are collected here and scheduled for onward transport to internal and external production plants and customers. The station is located at the heart of thyssenkrupp Steel’s 400-kilometer rail network and forms the hub to the ports and individual production sites.
- Where does the thyssenkrupp Steel track network end?
The thyssenkrupp track network has no clear-cut terminus since it is connected to that of Deutsche Bahn, which, in turn, interfaces with the railroad networks of neighboring countries. In practice, however, only the tracks located on the factory premises are maintained by thyssenkrupp.
- Who is responsible for operating the thyssenkrupp Steel railroad?
The Logistics business unit bears overall responsibility. The actual work, however, is performed by around 900 employees of the Railway Operations and Railway Technology departments, who ensure that everything runs smoothly. The jobs involved include locomotive drivers, wagon masters, and signalmen. By the way, at thyssenkrupp Steel you can also train to be a switchman and locomotive engineer.
It's all in the mix
- What does it show?
We are at the top of the production chain of the integrated steel mill of thyssenkrupp Steel. The view encompasses one of a total of six adjacent fine ore blending yards at the Duisburg-Schwelgern location. A so-called ‘stacker’ moves the bed on rails to fill it with raw materials for sintering.
- What is the purpose of a fine ore blending yard?
Before steel production, pig iron is produced in the blast furnace. This requires iron ore, coke, and other additives, which must be sorted and prepared accordingly. While coarser raw materials are suitable for immediate use in blast furnaces, finer material is first transported to the blending yards where it is mixed with other fine ores, fuels, and additives to form a homogeneous mixer ore of consistent quality.
- And what is the stacker used for?
Blending yards are built up in layers. The stacker ensures that the individual raw materials are ‘stacked’ one after the other in regular layers as well as in the longitudinal direction. The device needs approx. 15 minutes for one trip. Each blending yard is about 390 meters long, about 13 meters wide, and will end up being up to 13 meters high. By the time this height is reached, the stacker will have completed up to 600 trips!
- What is the lifetime of a fine ore blending yard?
A full, freshly stacked blending yard comprises 140,000 tons of ore. As a rule, after four to five days all the material is used up for sintering or pig iron production. As soon as one of the blending yards is empty, another one is ‘cut,’ and the empty blending yard is stacked again. This is why there are a total of six such blending yards on site: While two are being filled up in parallel, two can be emptied. The remaining two blending yards serve as buffers.
What a Gas!
- What are we looking at here, and where is it?
This is the Gasometer in Duisburg-Hamborn, Germany.
- What’s a gasometer, and what’s it used for?
A gasometer is a container that stores purified gases created as by-products of steel manufacturing and subsequently used to generate energy. The gasometer is used to balance out peaks in energy generation and consumption.
- How is the gas stored, and how does this system function?
Gasometers are disk-type gas holders. The disk inside the gas holder rises to the top and is filled with a certain volume of gas that is consequently stored. When the gas is removed from the gas holder, the disk is moved downwards and correspondingly reduces the stored volume. In principle, this is similar to the way that a French press for coffee works.
- What happens to the gas once it’s been removed from the Gasometer?
The gas, which has been previously purified and compressed, is removed from the gas holder using suction funs, compressed under even greater pressure, and then fed in to the energy cycle. The gas is used to heat up furnaces or to generate power in power plants.