Modeling of Steel Heating and Melting Processes in Industrial Steelmaking Furnaces
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Steel heating and melting processes consume the majority of the energy used in advanced short-process steelmaking practices. Economic and environmental pressures from energy consumption drive the research to improve the furnace operation efficiency and energy efficiency. The goal of this research is to utilize computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to provide useful tools and recommendations on the steel heating and melting practices in the steelmaking process. The steel slab reheating process, the steel scrap preheating process and the steel scrap melting process are studied.
A transient three-dimensional (3-D) CFD model was developed to simulate the flow characteristics, combustion process and multi-scale, multi-mode heat transfer inside the reheating furnace. The actual geometry of an operating industrial furnace was used and typical operating conditions were simulated. Specific walking speeds of slabs in production were modeled using a dynamic mesh model which is controlled by a user-defined function (UDF) solved using ANSYS Fluent. Fuel variations at different zones with respect to time were also considered. The model was validated with instrumented slab trials conducted at the SSAB Mobile (Alabama) mill. The temperature field in the furnace and the temperature evolution of a slab predicted by the CFD model are in good agreement with those obtained from the instrumented slab trials. Based on the simulation results, the slab reheating process and the temperature uniformity of a slab at discharge were able to be properly evaluated. In addition, a comprehensive two-dimensional (2-D) numerical heat transfer model for slab reheating in a walking beam furnace was developed using the finite difference method. An in-house code was developed. The model is capable of predicting slab temperature evolution during a reheating process based on real time furnace conditions and steel physical properties. The model was validated by using mill instrumented slab trials and production data. The results show that the temperature evolution predicted by the model is in good agreement with that measured by the thermocouples embedded in the instrumented slab. Compared with 3-D CFD simulation of a reheating process, this 2-D heat transfer model used for predicting slab temperature evolution requires less computing power and can provide results in a few seconds. A graphical user interface was also developed to facilitate the input and output process. This is a very convenient and user-friendly tool which can be used easily by mill metallurgists in troubleshooting and process optimization.
CFD models for steel scrap preheating and melting processes by the combined effects of the heat source from both oxy-fuel combustion and electric arc were also developed. The oxy-fuel burners firing natural gas (NG) are widely used in EAF operation during the scrap preheating and melting stages. In order to understand the role of oxy-fuel combustion and potentially increase the energy input from NG while decreasing the electricity consumption, numerical simulation of scrap preheating by oxy-fuel combustion in an EAF was firstly conducted. A 3-D CFD model was developed with detailed consideration of gas flow, oxy-fuel combustion, heat transfer between gas and solid scrap and scrap oxidation. The model was validated by a small-scale experimental study and applied onto a real-scale EAF.
Scrap melting in bath is comprehensively studied with a CFD model developed to simulate the melting in bath process under given operating conditions. Two sub-models were developed for model integration: steel melting model and coherent jet model. The multiphase volume of fluid (VOF) model and the enthalpy-porosity technique are applied to describe the steel melting process. The coherent jet model calculates the gas jet momentum and is integrated into the flow model to calculate its effect on the fluid flow in the bath. The electric arc was treated as a heat flux to represent the heat transfer from the electric arc during the melting process. Model validations were conducted for each sub-model to ensure their accuracy. Parametric studies were also carried out to obtain useful information for real practice.
Overall, the CFD models developed in this research work have demonstrated value in improving energy efficiency in the energy-intensive steelmaking processes. The developed CFD models also provide insights for better understanding of the multi-physics processes.