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FERROUS METALLURGY: CURRENT STATE AND PROSPECTS

Дата публикации: 20 сентября 2021
Автор(ы): Leopold LEONTYEV, Konstantin GRIGOROVICH
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: ТЕХНОЛОГИИ
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №4, 2011, C.46-50
Номер публикации: №1632133186


Leopold LEONTYEV, Konstantin GRIGOROVICH, (c)

by Acad. Leopold LEONTYEV, Chairman of the RAS Scientific Council for Metallurgy and Materials Science, Konstantin GRIGOROVICH, RAS Corresponding Member

 

Steel has become the main construction material, which is explained by its operational properties and economic feasibility.

 

With an annual average increase of steel production by approximately 13.5 mln tons, intense construction operations, industrial and technological development, construction rates from 1950 to 1990 were very high. In the period from 2000 to 2007, the increase rate reached the top and made up 73.7 mln tons a year.

 

The year of 2007 was a peak of steel and alloy production-1 bin 343.5 mln tons. But the consequent global economic crisis had a negative effect on the iron and steel industry of a majority of developed countries, which resulted in 1.2 percent and 8 percent decrease in steel production in 2008 and 2009 correspondingly.

 
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Furthermore, the overall production of such materials as aluminum (41.1 mln tons), copper (15.5 mln tons), zinc (10.3 mln tons), chrome (3.4 mln tons) and nickel (0.92 mln tons), essential for technical progress, made up not more that 6 percent of the total steel production.

 

Moreover, the upward dynamics of steel production in the recent decade was characteristic for the developing countries at most, especially China. Based on the results of 2009, China manufactured 46.6 percent of the global production output and increased its production capacities 2.5 times. All this was made possible with the construction of new manufacturing facilities and cardinal modernization of existing ones. Here is an interesting fact: intensive development in the People's Republic of China is accompanied by an increase in the gross domestic product (15-18 percent), which is different from all other countries.

 

THE 50 YEAR ANALYSIS

 

The international differentiation of labor is one of the characteristic features of the contemporaneity, and metallurgy is a leading industry in Russia. According to the world rating, the appropriate big Russian industrial complexes hold: the 15th place (OJSC Severstal), the 17th place (OJSC Yevrazkholding), the 21st place (OJSC Magnitogorsk Metallurigical Complex) and the 30th place (OJSC Novolipetsk Metallurgical Complex). The iron and steel industry's share in the overall industrial production in Russia makes up 17 percent and brings 14 percent of currency proceeds. Nevertheless, we are behind the majority of developed countries by the volume of per capita consumption of ferrous metal products: it is 154 kg/man in Russia, while Japan, the USA and Europe show 350-550 kg/man. At the same time the USSR was one of the leaders in the global metal production. In 1961-1971, there was implemented a large-scale development program: the volume of investments in the iron and steel industry increased almost twofold. A lot of money was invested in research works and development of branch, academic and higher education establishments. These institutions designed and implemented in practice the vacuum treatment technology and oxygen converter fusion of steel. National specialists were the first to use oxygen and natural gas to intensify processes of steel and cast iron production

 
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process, offered and implemented a revolutionary technology of continuous casting these materials, etc.* All production equipment was manufactured at domestic engineering plants. Significant financial investments and scientific achievements made it possible to produce 165 mln tons of steel in 1985, which enabled us to become a leader in this field.

 

After disintegration of the Soviet state, the situation changed: key assets of enterprises and plants were used extensively to enrich majority shareholders and acquire non-profile assets. Investments aimed to upgrade production facilities were suspended for a long time. For example, from 1988 to 1994, the decrease in steel production (overall for Russia and former USSR republics) was a real catastrophe--85 mln tons. By 1998, it additionally decreased more than twice.

 

In 2001, over 88.5 percent of operating blast furnaces and 86 percent of rolling mills exceeded their useful life. From the commencement of "perestroika", not a single large-scale project was implemented, not a single full cycle big plant was constructed. Only tube making sector was successfully developing.

 

According to specialists, 2007 was the most successful year for Russian metallurgy: that year 72.7 mln tons of steel were produced, which made up about 80 percent of the overall production of 1989.

 

Today, ferrous metallurgy is export oriented. In 2009, the country exported about 28.0 mln tons of ferrous metal products (55 percent), this figure is almost the same as for the period from 1999 to 2002. As compared

 

See: L. Leontyev, V. Ponomaryov, "Academic Science Zeroes in on Metallurgy", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2000.--Ed.

 

with 2008, the domestic consumption of rolled iron reduced by 7.7 mln tons.

 

Production of special steels-steels of high technical quality that are very significant for technical progress and security of any state--was affected most of all. There are some production facilities manufacturing them: Stupino Metallurgical Complex, Elektrostal (Moscow Region), Kulebakino Metallurgical Plant, today OJSC RUSPOLIMET (Nizhni Novgorod Region), Chebarkul Metallurgical Plant (Chelyabinsk Region), Izhevsk Metallurgical Plant (Udmurtiya), Serp i Molot (Moscow), etc. For example, in 1985 Krasny Oktyabr Plant (Moscow) produced about 2 mln tons of special steels annually. By 2010, the production volume reduced by 350,000 tons. This is characteristic of all production facilities of the industry.

 

One of the most striking examples of the crisis in the metallurgical industry is dynamics of rolled stainless steel production. In the course of reforms, the stainless steel production was almost totally paralyzed--from 1990 to 1998 it reduced by 20 times. An insignificant rise was registered in 1999-2000, but it did not become a stable tendency. By 2009, the situation slightly changed: production increased a little but did not exceed 110,000 tons a year, while domestic demand amounted up to 225,000 tons a year. The main reasons to import stainless steel to our country (primarily from China) were and still are its high production costs and low quality of rolling at national enterprises, which, in its turn, is explained by the use of inefficient costly technologies and outdated equipment.

 

So, it is absolutely clear: a drastic reduction in the production of special steels and high-quality steel products is one of the basic problems of Russian metallurgy. The other problems are indifference of the state towards stimulation of innovations in this branch and incorrect reorientation of funds to the raw material sector of the economy, which failed to become a driver for the development of related brunches. To make it clear, we'd like to point out that the EU countries invest on average about 50$ per each ton of steel, Russia--less than 19$/t. As we have already mentioned above, Russia has reached the world level only in one sector--tube production.

 

ATTITUDE TO RAW MATERIAL RESOURCES

 

Historically, the USSR ferrous metallurgy formed on the basis of high-grade specific iron ores found in the Urals* and Siberia. With the depletion of reserves, spe-

 

See: L. Leontyev, V. Ponomaryov, "History of Ural Metallurgy", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2009.--Ed.

 
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cialists developed new technologies for their concentration, but iron concentrates were still multicomponent, i.e. contained a number of useful elements, not only iron. Today, the most common ore deposits of the Ural Region are complex, iron ores are extracted thousands of kilometers away, which significantly increases production costs, taking into account current railway tariffs.

 

The most important reserves of iron ores are represented by titanomagnetites. They are located along the Ural Mountains from the north to the south down to the Aral Sea, in Siberia, in the Far East, in the Kola Peninsula, in other regions. Normally, in addition to iron and titanium, the ores of such type contain vanadium and other rare elements. Large-scale processing capacities are centered at Nizhni Tagil Industrial Complex (Ural) and Chusovo Metallurgical Plant (Perm Region); while vanadium extraction level is only 30 percent, and titanium is not extracted at all.

 

Tougher requirements to the materials for main pipelines dictate a necessity to master production of high-strength welding steels. In particular, alongside with low-carbon steels widely used before today, low-carbon and low-alloy steels are becoming more and more popular. Their alloying means adding of 1.5 percent manganese plus niobium, vanadium, molybdenum and boron, and a simultaneous limitation of carbon. But efficient processing of such complex ores is impossible without new, resource-saving technologies, which are still absent in our country.

 

The revival of Tyrnyauz (Kabardino-Balkaria) Tungsten and Molybdenum Industrial Complex capable to produce necessary volumes of concentrates, would be of great help for Russian metallurgy. Chelyabinsk Electro-metallurgical Complex also has specialized shops, but at the moment other ferrous alloys are produced there, production of ferrous molybdenum is unfortunately suspended.

 

That is why the government should take all possible measures to restore the raw material base to produce ferrous alloys essential for manufacture of high-quality steels, including strategic steel products. Reconstruction of the steel-making sector, replacement of the outdated equipment with the oxygen converter and electrical steel-making machinery, as well as out-of-furnace processing and continuous casting technologies should become priority tasks of modernization. It is also necessary to focus on the expansion of mineral resources base at the expense of complex processing of ores and minerals and involvement of our country's natural wealth in the production process.

 

NEW APPROACH

 

TO SCIENTIFIC STUDIES

 

As we have already pointed out, metallurgical plants in our country really need new technologies, modernization of production and improvement of competitiveness of products. An appropriate scientific and technical progress or innovative development could be realized in three basic stages: getting of new skills, development of pilot methods or samples, creation of industrial technologies or devices.

 

As a rule, the first and second stages are implemented by state-owned national laboratories, academic or higher education institutions. The third stage was realized by branch institutes of the USSR in charge of scientific developments and their industrial production.

 

All applied studies were carried out first of all at the institutes of the Ministry of Ferrous Metallurgy. The obtained results were transferred to the plants that also were state-owned. It was a command system with a lack of effective management; nevertheless it gave good results in solving a number of main tasks.

 

Modern Russia cannot display a sound logic of innovative development of metallurgy. The state has almost terminated centralized funding of the branch science, transferring this responsibility on to the production plants, that decreased research costs tens of times and almost deactivated their own research and design subdivisions. Nevertheless, researchers of the Ural Region, including employees of the Akade-michesky Innovation and Technological Center (one of the first seven research centers of Russia), who have been working there since 1998, are trying to stand up to these temporary problems and carry out large-scale studies focused on the structure and physico-chemical properties of metals, thermal treatment of steels and alloys, use of metallurgical raw matescience in Russia, No.4, 2011

 
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rials.* They offered a technology of a complex use of Kachkanar ores (the basic source of vanadium), which was really very important for the development of the Urals, they satisfied the national demand for this raw material produced of titano-magnetite ores, and worked out a number of advanced processing technologies for the low-grade oxidized nickel ores.

 

However, there were no significant changes in the technical and investment policy of the national metallurgical companies for the last years; innovative research works aimed to enhance the quality of steel and its products were carried out only by specialists of the RAS Institute of Metallurgy and Materials Science named after A. Baikov (Moscow).

 

Today, our science depends greatly on bureaucracy and money distribution systems, which is totally in the competence of officials, who determine innovative requirements irrespective of the interests of the real sector of economy and allocate money between affiliated structures, which finally leads to commonplace developments far from being introduced into practice. Our plants have no access to the procedure of formation of state-guaranteed orders for corresponding works, they have no privileged taxation to co-finance research works and are a bit interested in new scientific products. And though Russian businessmen abroad can benefit from privileged credit agreements, they at the same time are bound by pressing conditions for the delivery of foreign technologies and products, which are often far from unique or perspective. This promotes reduction of competitiveness of our production plants and increases production costs.

 

In the near future Russian manufacturers will hardly be able to resist the "invasion" of Chinese companies with their modern plants, huge production capacities,

 

See: L. Leontyev et al., "Akademichesky Center of Innovative Technologies", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2003.--Ed.

 

low production costs and high quality scientific developments.

 

In a word, national metallurgy should be seriously reoriented to domestic consumption. Thus, national industry shall take a path of modernization with a sustainable growth in mechanical engineering, construction, defense, processing industries, etc. We also need the state to actively participate in this process (state-guaranteed orders), supported by investments and protectionist policy. Perhaps, that will happen within the limits of realization of the platform "new technologies and materials".

 

Finally, in our point of view, a combination of academic and higher education science and state-financed target-oriented programs could become one of the most efficient solutions of the existing problems. This will enhance the quality of vocational education and will result in new technologies and products, ready to compete with world leaders.

 

The first positive step toward revival of national metallurgy was a decision to set up a Technical and Introductory Center for Metallurgy and Heavy Mechanical Engineering (Yekaterinburg) adopted by the State Committee. The RAS Scientific Council for Metallurgy and Materials Science together with the Republican Institute for Intellectual Property provided the Committee with proposals on the form and structure of the new center, its main lines of business. As one of the preparatory measures, in June 2011 they scheduled to hold an All-Russia Scientific and Technical Conference Problems and Prospects of Development of Metallurgical Enterprises on the Basis of Completed Fundamental Studies and R&D. The objective of the conference is to analyze the current state of metallurgy and mechanical engineering; to study the trends of fundamental and applied research works carried out by RAS institutes and their compliance with industrial needs; to identify priorities of development of ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy; to estimate development prospects of the raw material base taking into consideration its suitability for metallurgy; to select new high-quality technologies.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 20 сентября 2021 года

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