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BlueScope’s bold instrumentation scheme

When one of the world’s top-three painted steel products suppliers drafted plans in 2004 to set up an inline paint facility, the company made a crucial but rather unusual decision.

When BlueScope Steel set up its first Colorbond paintline facility in 1966 at Port Kembla, it saw demand for its roofing and guttering products, fences, sheds and warehouses grow phenomenally.

With demand for Colorbond steel products pushing capacity limits in 2003, the company decided to set up a plant at Erskine Park, in Sydney. This was because the city’s western region had become the single biggest Colorbond products consumer in Australia.

Feasibility study

In 2004, an internal feasibility group to determine capital expenditure was set-up, comprising engineers each with at least ten years experience at one of BlueScope’s paintline facilities — either at Acacia Ridge, Port Kembla or Western Port.

This group of engineers knew, first-hand, many of the problems that could be encountered during construction and commissioning a ‘greenfields’ paint plant and so they undertook the 12-month feasibility study, which focussed on reducing these problems. This study was submitted to the BlueScope Board.

Process instrumentation

Here, however, the BlueScope team took the unusual step to review process instrumentation suppliers during the conceptual stage, coming to the conclusion that they could future-proof their new plant by implementing Profibus fieldbus technology throughout.

“We wanted to do some front-end engineering before submissions”, said BlueScope project engineer, Shannon Ballard.

“Thus when approval came, there would be a greater degree of certainty around what the Board was approving.”

After a detailed evaluation, the team selected Endress+Hauser as its main instrument vendor (MIV). There was a strong drive to learn from past projects and BlueScope therefore selected only one company as a partner in the project. It is a well-documented fact that instrumentation represents only a small percentage of a project’s cost. However, at the back-end of the project, the impact of that cost is a lot higher.

European company, Fata Hunter, was appointed as the mechanical paintline equipment supplier; the company sourced its equipment from nine countries. BlueScope provided Fata Hunter with three preferred instrumentation suppliers. Endress+Hauser, on account of its worldwide presence and comprehensive portfolio of Profibus PA equipment, was selected to perform the bulk of the instrumentation.

Environmental focus

The project was approved in December 2004 by the BlueScope Board and construction started at the Erskine Park site late 2005. The first Colorbond product was painted on 15 August 2007, approximately 20 months after construction started. The plant comprises a paintline facility producing 120,000 tonnes per annum; a wastewater treatment plant; a regenerative thermal oxidiser; a significant rainwater capture and re-use system with total capacity in excess 800,000 litres; and cooling towers.

To eliminate any potential environmental risks emerging from the use of solvent-based paints, BlueScope implemented what is believed to be the world’s best practice in air emission control for this type of plant — a Regenerative Thermal Oxidiser (RTO). The plant runs at virtually zero gas emission because the RTO uses the thermal energy in the solvent, which is a fuel, to self combust. This is recycled through a heat exchanger back into the ovens.

“So once the system is heated-up, we pull back on our gas systems and just use the solvents to fuel the ovens,” said Ballard.

Measurement & control

A range of Endress+Hauser instrumentation linked to Profibus PA was used for the measurement and control processes. The instruments includes: magnetic and vortex flow meters and flow switches; temperature switches, sensors, and thermocouples; Cerabar M and Deltabar S pressure and dp transmitters; Micropilot M radar and Levelflex M guided microwave level products; analytical products including pH and conductivity sensors; and all the devices are linked by Profibus PA technology to the plant’s automation system supplied by Rockwell via a Prosoft interface.

Profibus technology has provided BlueScope with the data needed to make better management decisions over the long-term, and provide flexibility for future expansion. The BlueScope team is currently reviewing Endress+Hauser’s Fieldcare and partnering it with W@M — the Web based Asset Management tool. If implemented, this will allow BlueScope to diagnose the health and monitor the performance of its process instruments 24 hours a day, as well as make available online all the manuals, certificates, and spare parts lists.

Contact Endress+Hauser Australia Pty Ltd;

John Immelman, managing director

Phone: 1300 363 707



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