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Iisco revival on fast track

Calcutta, Dec. 29: SAIL’s Iisco Steel Plant at Burnpur will leap into life in April with the commissioning of a steel melting shop, the last cog in the wheel that will run this 2.5-million-tonne unit.

The modernisation and expansion of the oldest steel unit of the PSU, flagged off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seven years ago, has been on the slow lane but the company has now come up with a novel idea to fast track the commissioning.

The plant’s twin hearth furnaces, which are well past their prime, will be innovatively used to speed up the exercise.

The plant has completed building most of the key facilities such as the sinter plant, blast furnace, coke oven, wire rope and the ore handing system. But it can’t reach the desired production level unless the steel melting shop is commissioned. Once the steel melting shop is ready to roll, the plant can go into full production after stabilising the operation for a few months.

“We thought of using the twin hearth to stabilise operation and save some time,” Narendra Kothari, CEO of Iisco Steel Plant, said.

For the time being, hot metal is being brought to the continuous casting plant (CCP) from a distance of 3 kilometres where the twin hearth furnace is located. Once the melting shop’s ready, the process will start following the usual route — from the blast furnace to the steel melting shop and then to the CCP.

The cost of the modernisation and expansion of the plant, which has had a positive impact on the Durgapur-Burnpur belt in Bengal, has escalated substantially. The project cost may touch Rs 16,000 crore against Rs 9,600 crore initially estimated.

Delays in completing the work, besides the rise in dollar-rupee rates, have caused the cost escalation.

SAIL also could not envisage the challenges in the topography. Slag and boulders had to be removed from the ground before building the foundation, delaying work for over two years. Even today, the plant stands at different levels of elevations because of the topography.

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