26 Oct 2023

Arc Furnace Breaker Upgrade Forges Stronger Production Future

FINKL STEEL HAS RESOLVED LONGstanding production and maintenance issues at its Canadian facility in Sorel, Quebec, since switching up to ABB’s VD4-AF1 vacuum arc furnace circuit breaker.

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As the world’s leading supplier of forging die, plastic mould, and die-casting tool steels, processing over 200,000 tons of steel each year, Finkl Steel was keen to address disruptive quarterly maintenance cycles and annual reconditioning of its circuit breakers that slowed production and tied up resource.

When two of its four circuit breakers reached the end of their service life, it made financial sense to upgrade the electrical cabinet with just one specialised VD4-AF1 arc furnace breaker, which has much greater longevity and endurance, slashes maintenance costs and brings added technological benefits. By halving the number of circuit breakers required, the facility is also significantly reducing its waste footprint.

Phillipe Tremblay, Project Engineer at Finkl Steel, said: “It’s been a very sound investment, as a year in no one has touched it. The ABB VD4-AF1 is capable of 150,000 operations, and as we’ll probably have it for at least ten years, that equates to a decade of no maintenance. Before that, it was continuous inspections, repairs, rebuilds and all the associated breakages, part costs and hours of downtime.

“This new breaker also brings smart technological advancements, as by synchronising the opening of the poles, it ensures that overvoltage is eliminated when it closes. This is also mission critical for us, as overvoltage can damage transformers and other important electrical equipment on the line.”

The VD4-AF1 is the first mediumvoltage (MV) circuit breaker with servomotors, which enables precise drive control and eliminates the need for inrush limiting reactors and resistances for applications up to 38kV, leading to significant cost and space savings. It also brings 24/7 predictive health indication and accurate synchronisation with network voltage to control the accuracy and precision of the electrical current passing through the furnace, while reducing the risk of component failure and enhancing safety.

With the objective of achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions, Finkl Steel is looking to electrify all of its operations – the Sorel plant has been identified as the first facility in the Swiss steel group capable of electrifying all of its operations thanks to its strategic position and the availability of 100% renewable electricity produced in Quebec.