Sheffield Forgemasters fires £2m furnace upgrade

The electric arc furnace rebuild team with the upgraded steel melting furnace at Sheffield Forgemasters
The electric arc furnace rebuild team with the upgraded steel melting furnace at Sheffield Forgemasters

Forgemasters is firing again after a £2m, seven-month overhaul of a giant electric arc furnace named ‘Maggie’.

The Brightside company is celebrating the upgrade of equipment installed in the 1960s which can melt 105 tonnes of steel faster, using less energy and producing a cleaner product.

It involved removing more than 150 tonnes of mechanical components, hydraulics, refractory material and cabling, according to Gareth Barker, operations director.

And it took seven months - including seven weeks when it was completely out of action, requiring planning to prevent other departments being starved of work.

Mr Barker added: “Logistically and physically, this has been an enormous undertaking.

“The previous configuration served us well over the years and has been continually upgraded and maintained but to make a more effective melting plant, we knew that it would require radical reconfiguration.

“With the exception of the main hearth and staging, we have essentially built a new furnace.”

The £2m project is part of the firm’s turnaround plan, which includes £6.5m on equipment, after two years in the red.

Earlier this month it announced a £5.5m contract for an offshore oil platform.

The electric arc furnace was installed in the 1960s with a capacity to melt 90 tonnes, this was later upgraded to 105 tonnes ‘tap-weight capacity’.

The upgrade involved stripping out almost 80 per cent of the furnace to upgrade a electrode columns and current carrying arms, cabling, automation and control systems, hydraulics and water cooling equipment, Mr Barker added.

The result was a 15 per cent efficiency improvement. Sheffield Forgemasters is a supplier of components to the UK and US defence industries, power generation and offshore oil and gas. It exports more than 60 per cent of products.

Mr Barker added: “In order for Sheffield Forgemasters to compete in an increasingly competitive and fluctuating global market, we need technical excellence and the ability to make efficiencies.”