Study of Inclusion Removal in a Gas-stirred Ladle
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Steel refining via ladle treatment is critical to final product quality in the steel manufacturing process. The process of ladle refining serves to assist in the removal of non-metallic inclusions, which can impact steel product fatigue strength, impact toughness, and corrosion resistance. While the steelmaking industry has in place best practices for the process, it remains costly to performing trial and error testing on the ladle. In addition, an understanding of the flow phenomena within the ladle during operation can provide industry with key knowledge necessary to improve the efficiency and throughput of the process.
The method by which this research aims to address this is through the development of a comprehensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model of the steelmaking ladle. Such a model, capable of predicting the inclusion removal process and flow patterns within the ladle, would serve to provide the necessary information to advance steelmaking efficiency and improve product quality. A full scale unsteady state three dimensional CFD model has been developed to predict removal of inclusion during gas-stirring in a ladle. The Eulerian-Eulerian model was used to simulate the multiphase flow, the Population Balanced Model (PBM) has been used to describe the inclusion distribution. The phenomena of bottom-blow argon bubble coalescence and breakup were considered.
Additionally, a model has been developed to predict inclusion removal during operation. For the inclusion removal model, the CFD-PBM coupled method has been proposed to investigate the inclusion behavior. This includes representing phenomena such as inclusion-bubble collision, inclusion removal by attachment to the ladle refractory, and inclusion capture by slag floating on the surface of the melt. The unified computational model for simulation of fluid flow and inclusion removal was validated against industry measurements provided by Nucor Steel.
Using this CFD model and a ladle geometry and set of baseline conditions provided by Nucor Steel, studies were carried out to examine flow development, gas bubble distribution, and inclusion removal. Examining the impacts of inclusion size on removal rate indicated that larger inclusions are removed faster. This agreed with both industry expectations and data found in published literature. In addition, the model predicts that bubble-inclusion collision are primarily responsible for 99% inclusion removal in a gas-stirred ladle.