The recently commissioned ferrochrome plant of Tata Steel at Gopalpur Industrial Park in Odisha has commenced production. The novelty of the plant is that chromite briquettes are used for making ferrochrome which are, in turn, produced at the briquetting plant close by. The briquetting unit had commenced production on 23 January last year. The Rs 542-crore plant has an installed capacity of 55,000 TPA. It is an environment-friendly plant with state-of-the-art pollution control equipment and technology and the indigenously built semi-closed hybrid furnace is the first-of-its-kind in the country. With a view to delving deeper into the technological novelties of the Gopalpur plant and its broader production objectives, SteelMint caught up with Mr Batula Srinivas, project head of the Gopalpur plant. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Q: Chromite briquettes produced at the briquetting plant are used for making ferrochrome at the Gopalpur industrial complex. This is a first-of-its-kind technique in India. How does it contribute to enhancing productivity?
A: We are receiving different types of ore – high, medium and low grades as per the mining plan of Sukinda. In order to produce ferrochrome as per customer requirements, we have a unique ore blending-cum-proportioning￼ facility at the 30 TPH briquette plant for cold agglomeration of chrome ore fines. This is a first-of-its-kind technique in India for any briquette plant. This helps us maintain the Cr/Fe ratio and Cr2O3 required for production of ferrochrome as per requirements of customers.
Q: What is the cost of producing a ton of ferrochrome at the plant?
A: Cost of production at each plant varies depending upon its efficiency and location. The industry average is Rs 62,000- 65,000/MT for plants which have a set up much like our plant at Gopalpur.
Q: The indigenously built semi-closed hybrid furnace at the plant has components procured from all over the world. How does it help maintain high standards of quality and safety?
A: Critical parts of the furnace like the power transformer are procured from Tamini in Italy. The transformer has safety interlocks and alarm management with condition monitoring devices to ensure safe operation and maintenance. The lower electrode assembly is procured from Cometva in France that has been designed for better electrical and thermal efficiency for optimum furnace load management to enable furnace productivity and safety. The rest of the parts are indigenously sourced, which are fabricated and erected as per safe inherent design to meet quality and safety requirements.
Q: The Sukinda merchant mine in Jajpur district is the main source of the raw material for the 55,000 t/pa plant. What are the company’s future plans after its lease expires in 2020?
A: Tata Steel will definitely participate in the lease renewal process. We are confident of retaining the lease.
Q: Tata Steel flagged off the first dispatch of ferrochrome from the plant recently. What was the volume of the commodity dispatched? Have production levels inched up since?
A: It was a historic moment for the plant. For the first time, we dispatched Tata Tischrome from the Gopalpur plant in June 2018. Then the dispatches of the product to different destinations have continued at a faster rate. Production levels have remained the same.
Q: What is the steel major’s export target from the plant in the coming days?
A: The plant has been declared an export-oriented unit and being an anchor project of the Tata Steel Special Economic Zone Limited, a large majority of products will be exported to the tune of 4500 MT/month
Q: What strategies have been deployed to maximize production at the plant?
A: The strategies that have been deployed are commissioning of the 220 KV line and ramping up other facilities to achieve the full capacity of 55,000 MT/annum.