This project was the first step in developing a control system for the open slag bath furnace at Highveld Steel, in order to maximize production levels and product quality. In this dissertation, available knowledge from literature and practical experience is included. This is then processed to propose a realistic control system with the current resources available at Highveld Steel. Through research and practical experience it is shown that these furnaces are extremely sensitive to raw material quality and consistency of decision making. This is a result of the open bath configuration that necessitates the careful control of the excess energy, and the raw material composition supplied to the furnace. Through this project it was shown that both the productivity and the product quality (vanadium recovery) can be increased by simply controlling the feed-topower ratio and correct use of correction material. This has the effect of stabilizing the process energy balance which results in smaller slag temperature variations and therefore also less product quality variability. Through controlling the feed-power-ratio, energy consumption was also shown to be reduced, since excess power is minimized without negatively impacting on productivity. In this project a proposal is made to control the flow of material between the two stages in the process, which is based on either being kiln or furnace constrained. A better tapping scheduling is also proposed, based on both material accumulations inside the furnace and the charging condition of the furnace. This results in having sufficient pressure to tap iron and slag at good rates and should also yield consistent tapping weights and add to general process stability. However, engineering availability strongly impacts on both process control and furnace productivity. Consistent availability of the furnace and its supporting systems is hence essential for optimal operation.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2009.