Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Larisa M. Brass ()
Communications and External Relations


ORNL part of team to win 2006 Ohio Governor's Award

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 28, 2007 — For the second year in a row, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have been part of industry teams to win the Ohio Governor's Award for Energy Efficiency.

ORNL received the award for materials it helped develop for steel manufacturer Republic Engineered Products of Lorain, Ohio, to replace a component of steel-processing furnaces that has resulted in energy savings and increased company productivity. The honor was the only governor's award bestowed on industry in 2006.

The work was performed through a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industrial Technologies steel program. With this backing, ORNL researchers teamed with Energy Industries of Ohio to develop and test an aluminum-bronze copper alloy to replace traditional carbon steel in the "skirt" portion of large furnaces that make up part of the steel-making process at Republic Engineered Products' plant in Lorain.

These skirts are fastened atop a giant refractory lined vessel of steel through which oxygen is pumped to remove impurities. The skirt's other end attaches to a giant water-cooled hood that removes the heat of high-temperature emissions from the steel making process. Because of their constant exposure to heat and residues from the process, carbon steel skirts have historically been prone to leaks and require frequent replacement and repair. As a result, typical furnaces are operational just 25 percent to 50 percent of the time.

ORNL researchers led by Vinod Sikka, Materials Science and Technology Division, evaluated potential replacement materials for the skirts by performing thermal and corrosion modeling studies. They then used the studies to identify the most appropriate new material, quantified the energy savings and predicted the component lifetime.

After 20 months in service, the first installation outlived skirts made from conventional materials, did not accumulate residues from the smelting process and operated without leaking. While conventional materials would have required as many as 50 shutdowns for maintenance over this period, the new equipment required none.

Reduction in maintenance on the skirt has saved Republic 5.3 billion BTUs of energy per year, and the company expects to save an additional 4 billion BTUs per year by fabricating other components from the new alloy. The increase in productivity has generated additional steel production worth $12 million per year. The new aluminum-bronze copper alloy skirts are expected to achieve a lifetime of six years compared to a maximum of one year for the current carbon steel skirts.

"The successful application of advanced materials technology in manufacturing processes such as the basic oxygen furnace at Republic Engineered products is proving to reduce energy consumption with benefits of reducing global warming and U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources," Sikka said.

AmeriFab, which supplies components to the steel-making industry, manufactures the skirts using the new alloy.

"AmeriFab has worked closely with ORNL and energy industries of Ohio over the past five years to establish new technologies that would achieve the required energy savings in this strategic industry," said Gabriele Carinci, president of AmeriFab based in Indianapolis. "The operation of the prototype skirt has been flawless and has resulted in substantial energy savings and operational costs savings beyond the original expectation. The cooperation among ORNL and industry demonstrates the success that can be achieved in industry with the assistance of government-funded research and development applied to an industry-specific challenge."

The Governor's Award for Excellence in Energy recognition program honors individuals, businesses, industries and organizations that have improved Ohio's economic competitiveness and its environment through the effective, efficient and innovative use of energy.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.