Nerves of steel

27 October 2021

With the ongoing pressure on US President Joe Biden to lift steel tariffs and news that Sweden’s SSAB has produced the ‘world’s first fossil-free’ steel, Jenny Eagle looks at the latest projects in the metal distribution sector.

US President Biden is under pressure from steel manufacturers and their European allies over proposals to lift steel tariffs that Trump imposed, ahead of the 2022 elections. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai are trying to put together a trans-Atlantic plan to address the decades-long challenge of China undercutting domestic industries by pumping its excess steel into the global market at cheap prices with a deadline to reach a deal by the end of the year.

However, some steelworkers are concerned that rushing into an agreement with Europe could come at the expense of domestic steel producers and their union workers, whose support for Biden in key swing states helped propel him to the White House, according to a report by Politico. Currently there is a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum against European imports.

“The Biden administration understands that simply lifting steel tariffs without any solution in place, particularly beyond the dialogue, could well mean layoffs and plant closures in Pennsylvania and in Ohio and other states where obviously the impact would be felt not only economically but politically,” said Scott Paul, president, Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Biden told the United Steelworkers in a campaign questionnaire he would support steel and aluminum tariffs until global excess capacity is addressed, where he pledged to review Trump’s “short-sighted and destructive” approach to tariffs. He slammed his then-opponent for failing to address China’s trade practices and alienating foreign allies.

“I will use tariffs when they are needed, but the difference between me and Trump is that I will have a strategy — a plan — to use those tariffs to win, not just to fake toughness,” Biden told the union.

According to S&P Global Platts, a group of over 30 US trade associations sent a letter to President Biden in June, requesting an end to the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs and quotas on trade allies. “The tariffs, intended to help the steel and aluminum producing industries, imposed substantial costs on a much broader segment of the US economy,” it wrote. “The restriction on the supply of goods and raw materials resulting from the tariffs has sent a ripple throughout downstream industries, disrupting supply chains and threatening the economic security of American workers.”

The coalition of trade groups said it represented multiple sectors, hundreds of thousands of businesses and millions of workers across the US. “Our members rely on the movement of their goods and inputs without constant government intervention that causes delivery delays and arbitrary price spikes,” the letter said. “We encourage you to work with our national security and trade allies during your meetings in Europe in the coming weeks to lift the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs.”

The trade associations said they were encouraged by the White House’s recent announcement that the US and Europe would work together to address global steel and aluminum overcapacity and seek better trade solutions. A removal of the tariffs would help to repair trade relationships with ally nations and lead to the removal of retaliatory tariffs, the letter added.

The association letter was organized by the Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users, or CAMMU, the National Foreign Trade Council and other groups representing steel and aluminum using US companies. “Since their inception, the 232 steel tariffs have caused a steadily increasing array of supply disruptions and price fluctuations for some of the most critical inputs used by US manufacturers, effectively handing a competitive advantage to overseas producers of steel based products able to source their inputs at standard global market prices,” CAMMU said in a separate statement.

Talking about fluctuating steel prices Daniel Arwood, COO, Ace Industries says: “Skyrocketing steel prices come at a time where crane builders already face bad news twice – prices across the board are rising steadily and lead times are getting longer. This creates a pricing hole that is especially difficult for projects that involve heavy duty, double girder cranes as steel makes up the majority of the equipment price. At Ace, we’re meeting this challenge by providing transparent, fixed pricing upfront that can be buffered by our extensive inventory and by strategically using suppliers that have weathered these same challenges for decades before. This isn’t the first time Ace has seen dramatic fluctuations in steel prices. We make every effort to shield our clients from disruptions in price and lead times so they don’t feel the bump and can maintain business as usual. That’s important for our customer first business model.”

Cargotec & SSAB Partner On Fossil-Free Steel Projects

Cargotec and SSAB have announced they have agreed to work on the introduction of fossil-free steel to the cargo handling industry. The partnership means the companies will start coordinated development toward the use of SSAB’s fossil-free steel in Cargotec’s cargo handling equipment.

This is a strategic partnership for the benefit of both parties and end customers. It represents a significant milestone in moving toward a sustainable development and a fossil-free product offering.

“I am proud that we are paving the way in the cargo handling industry through commitment to using fossil-free steel and have this unique opportunity to work with a forerunner in fossil-free steel development.

This is an important step towards our vision of becoming a leader in sustainable cargo flow,” said Mika Vehviläinen, CEO. Cargotec.

“We are happy to welcome Cargotec as a partner for fossil-free steel products. Close collaboration with the development of a fossil-free value chain means we contribute to strengthening our customers’ competitiveness and to reducing their carbon footprint. Together, we also ensure the best solutions for end users,” added Martin Lindqvist, president/CEO, SSAB.

Steel and steel components are the main contributors for CO2 footprint at Cargotec’s scope 3 (value chain) upstream emissions. The total CO2 footprint comprises upstream emissions, which account for over a third of Cargotec’s total emissions, emissions from own operations (scope 1 and 2), and emissions from the use-phase of the products (scope 3 downstream).

Fossil-free steel has significantly lower environmental impact and hence, contributes towards a carbon neutral value chain. It is estimated steel demand will increase in the future and meeting this demand requires development and usage of fossil-free steel alternatives.

As well as steel production, aluminum manufacturing is another sector where renewables have a role to play. Earlier this year German auto mamnufactuer BMW said it had started to source and use aluminum that has been produced using solar energy, describing it as “an important milestone” in its goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from its supply network.

A “triple-digit million-euro contract” will see Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), an industrial firm based in the United Arab Emirates, provide BMW with 43,000 metric tons of aluminum this year. The solar power used in the metal’s production process will come from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, a vast development near Dubai. The aluminum will then be processed and turned into car parts at the light metal foundry of BMW’s plant in Landshut, Germany.

The deal is part of a wider “long-term” strategy to source aluminum produced from renewables, which BMW says could save roughly 2.5 million metric tons of CO2 by the year 2030.

Arcelormittal & Güdel Trackmotion Overhead Rail

In regards to automation and Industry 4.0, ArcelorMittal has partnered with Kawasaki robotics and Güdel TrackMotion Overhead (TMO) rail to maneuver heavy payloads in a restricted area of its West Virginia steel processing operation.

Maneuvering steel sleeves from a stack onto the first two mandrels in ArcelorMittal’s manufacturing process relies on an overhead crane operator and someone on the ground, in a narrow pit with the mandrels but each sleeve weighs more than 500lbs and there is little room in the pit to maneuver and no room for error.

“There’s two mandrels in the pit, and they’re far enough apart that there’s no way to maneuver sleeves on them without using Güdel’s rail,” said John Weber, sales operations leader, Kawasaki USA. “The robot has to physically move side to side to hit both mandrels with a sleeve. Without a rail traversing the pit, we would have had to have used two robots.”

ArcelorMittal needed a customised rail allowing the robot in the pit to move out of the way and allow operators to access the machinery above and behind the unit. The technology comprises two Kawasaki robots, each with a payload capacity for 300kg, and an 18ft TMO rail.

One robot, mounted on the floor above the pit, pulls sleeves from a stack and hands them down to the second robot, which is suspended from a single-beam rail running lengthwise along the lip of the pit.

The suspended robot employs a magnetic end-of-arm tool to hold each sleeve.

The single-beam track was instrumental in meeting several of the application’s criteria. In addition to supporting the weight of a heavy-payload robot as well as each sleeve it carries, the track allows the robot to make small lateral movements, enhancing its ability to articulate and maneuver the heavy sleeves onto each mandrel.

The TMO rail also doubles as a walkway along the length of the pit. This is possible because the robot carriage hangs from the bottom of the track, leaving the top of the rail clear for foot traffic.


“Güdel did something else with its track that was a first for me,” added Weber. “The rail has pins that mark its location on the floor. So ArcelorMittal can lift the entire traversing unit with the robot attached off of these pins and remove it to other parts of the plant for maintenance or just get it out of the way to maintain the steel-winding equipment. Then they can pick it back up with the overhead crane and set it down on the pins, and it goes right back into position.”

ArcelorMittal recently announced it is considering setting up a 4.5 GW solar park in the Indian state of Rajasthan, and it will invest in solar, wind, and hydrogen gas production in Gujarat.

Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, group chairman of ArcelorMittal, recently met Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and expressed his willingness to set up a 4.5 GW solar park at an investment of INR 19,000 crore ($2,586m) in Rajasthan. The plant would be set up by ArcelorMittal’s HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd. unit. Gehlot also invited ArcelorMittal to invest in the state’s mining sector.

Mittal also met with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and noted plans to invest $6809m in Gujarat’s solar energy, wind energy, and hydrogen gas production sectors. With this, the company joins the trend of steelmakers moving into green hydrogen and increasing its footprint in renewable power generation.

For example, JSW Future Energy, a unit of power producer JSW Energy, recently partnered with Australia-based Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) to explore green hydrogen development. Under their agreement, FFI and JSW Energy will collaborate and conduct scoping work on potential projects in green hydrogen production. They will also explore opportunities to use green hydrogen for steelmaking, hydrogen mobility, ammonia, and other mutually agreed industrial applications in India.

BVS sees mulitple wins with Turkey metal manufacturers

BVS Cranes has been working with three of the largest metal manufacturers in Turkey; Isdemir, Erdemir and Kardemir, for a number of years now and has ongoing multiple contracts with them.

BVS is active in the steel service and logistics centres as well. This means it works in the steel industry both upstream and downstream. It also recently commissioned fully automated cranes for Steel Solutions Global Distribution in Maastricht, The Netherlands and has won a couple of other major steel service and logistics centre orders in Turkey.

Isdemir and Erdemir, are part of OYAK Mining Metallurgy. Isdemir is Turkey’s Third oldest integrated iron and steel plant that produces long and flat products with a hot rolling capacity of 3.5 miliion tons/year.

Erdemir, one of the first domestic producers of flat steel, joined OYAK in 2006 and produces plates, hjot and cold rolled, tin, chromium and zinc coated flat steel and supplies basic inputs to automative, white goods, pipes and tubes, rolling, manufacturing, electric-eltronics, mechanical engineering, energy, heating equipment, ship building, defence and packaging industries. Kardemir entered the Turkish iron-steel sector in 1969 in Denizli City and started its import and export activities in 2001, now with more than 650 employees, three production lines and 700 thousand tons of long steel bars. In 2014, it became an incorporated Company, called Kardemir Haddecilik Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S

Speaking to Önder Topuz, sales and marketing manager, BVS Cranes, he said steel manufacturing is a fast growing industry because of the rising prices, and more international investments are on the way.

“Whenever new inverstments are happening BCS receives more contracts and orders. Steel service companies focus on logistics and trading steel flat products and coils of any size and thickness so they keep large stocks like our customer in The Netherlands, which has a big logistics centre close to major infrastructure routes such as freight, shio, rail and road transportation. These operate on a 24/7 basis so there is a need for our fully automated cranes as they ship worldwide,” he said.

“Global steel distribution in this 24-hour operation is very important because they rely on the crane manufacturer to reduce downtime, provide maintanence and after service of the cranes.”

Currently we have been awarded some contracts in Turkey, for a large process crane and the three steel manufacturers continuously give us new purchase orders. For example, we have commissioned a 350/80/10t, 5m heavy duty casting crane designed and built by BVS Cranes as part of the Ministry of technology supported R&D project for Isdemir in early 2021. 350t and 80t hoists are positioned on four girders separately to optimize minimum distance approacheson both sides and ease of maintenance. The system is controlled from a distance, with an independent control room via a camera and runs on a fully automated scheme.”

BVS recently won a contract in the Middle East to supply a Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) where steel tubes are being installed to carry water in an underground tunnels thanks to a contract through a large EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) contractor in Turkey who won the project.

“On winning the contract, we had to take into consideration the geography and climate conditions where the gantry is being installed is tough. The construction is in a very remote area and the tunnels is 3km long and not straight but is being built with slopes and turns,” explains Topuz.

“As a result, the customer worked directly with our engineering team to make sure we had the optimum solution to fit the specific requirements. The Tunnel RTG is a 2t x 8t with a 16t SWL (Safe, Working Load) and it is used for the lifting, transportation and assembly of 12m long steel pipes, in rough, uneven surfaces in the underground and in the tunnels.

“It is designed by our BVS engineers for situations where a gantry rail placement is not preferred or simply cannot be done.”

Topuz, added the gantry and its legs have a special geometry to perform the tasks for similar uses. The wheels make an angled rotation, enabling the crane to take the correct position and to lift the pipes, which are brought under the legs and bring the pipes down into the precise position required. “The Tunnel RTG moves along the tunnel back and forth easily. It brings great efficiency, speed and extraordinary cost advantages to the end user,” he said.

“This Tunnel RTG crane is a proven product, which we believe can bring the same economies to all infrastructure contractors worldwide.”


Kuli Gantry ‘Floats’ On Rails

Kuli has partnered with a steel manufacturer in Germany to supply a double-girder bridge crane with a span of 40 metres and two swivel cats, each with a load capacity of 2t x 4t. The two hoists have a total capacity for loads up to 16t and hoisting speeds 12.5 meters per minute.

The manufacturer, near Cologne, was expanding its storage area for steel mats and coils, which are used for the production of steel reinforcements, but its current crane runway had deteriorated due the external environment.

It therefore needed a crane which could react ‘intelligently’ to the respective temperature and weather conditions outside so Kuli installed an electronic track guidance so the machine could effectively ‘float on rails’.

“We can serve a large outdoor area with this crane. The challenges were due to the crane track outside that was hampered by the outdoor temperature. We retrofitted an electronic track guidance system to work in tandem with the crane so that it does not need to be guided by rollers. It is perfectly aligned to a PLC (programmable logic controller) using ultrasonic sensors,” said Oliver Kempkes, MD, Kuli. The customer also ordered various crane components and chain hoists with a 125kg load capacity and Kuli offered full training, servicing, maintenance, repairs, general overhauls and extensive retrofitting measures on existing systems as part of the deal.

The electronic track guidance is based on the defined wheel distances to the rail, which are constantly recorded by distance sensors. Countermeasures are already carried out in the event of a minimal deviation of the wheel distances from the nominal dimensions by a PLC in interaction with the existing frequency converters.

In this way, the crane remains perfectly centered on the track regardless of other influences on the guided side - without any contact and without wear and tear on the existing track guide rollers. The result is an almost noiseless driving behavior, as if the crane were floating over the rails.

BVS & Steel Solutions, The Netherlands
Cargotec parters with SSAB
BVS supplies a Tunnel RTG crane for an underground water project in the Middle East.
BVS supplies a Tunnel RTG crane for an underground water project in the Middle East.
Kuli double-girder bridge crane in Germany.
Kuli double-girder bridge crane in Germany.
BVS supplies a Tunnel RTG crane for an underground water project in the Middle East.
Kuli double-girder bridge crane in Germany.
BVS supplies a Tunnel RTG crane for an underground water project in the Middle East.
Güdel TMO rail
ArcelorMittal’s West Virginia steel plant.