The problem: Each sub-plant was spending more than $250,000 per year on vacuum truck contractors.
The solution: A 40-horsepower industrial vacuum system configured as a central vacuum.
ArcelorMittal, one of Canada’s largest steel processing plants, supplies 1.6 million tons of direct-produced pipe steel to reinforcing steel manufacturers and into construction and automotive industries. The "Contrecoeur-East" facility complex spans three highway exits located in southwestern Quebec.
Inside the facility, 80 conveyor belts transport materials to their respective locations. "There are a lot of iron ore dust and fragments," said ArcelorMittal Senior Coordinator Gabriel Lucena. "We had hired a contractor that came in every week to suck out the material that had fallen around the conveyor belts, and this was a very costly operation. When we used vacuum trucks, we always had to pay a minimum of four hours, so large piles would accumulate before we called for the truck. This wasn’t optimal in terms of health and safety."
Silica, iron oxides and lime dust drastically affect air quality. Letting material build up also creates possible tripping hazards, which is not ideal in a steel processing mill.
Each sub-plant was spending more than $250,000 per year on vacuum truck contractors.
Pre-purchase customer service
"A DuroVac representative came to the plant and we had some on-site discussions. He looked at the material, as well as the composition of the material, ensuring that he could recommend the right equipment for us," said Lucena.
Another meeting to discuss more of the technical details followed with a couple of designs for consideration and a demonstration of a vacuum installed at another ArcelorMittal facility — the other complex had the equipment working for a year without problems.
The right equipment
A 40-horsepower, HEPA-certified, DuroVac PowerLift — connected to a piping network — was set up to be used as a powerful central vacuum system. Chosen for its constant velocity, the system allows ArcelorMittal to move considerable tonnage with ease — replacing the need for vacuum trucks.
This series of vacuum systems ranges from 20 to 125 horsepower and the manufacturer provides demo/rental units to help benchmark for performance, while supporting their equipment with a nationwide team of technical salespeople.
Installation and machine use
"Installation was straightforward," Lucena said, adding that it was one of the things they liked about the equipment. While the vacuum manufacturer offers installation for their customers, ArcelorMittal had the capabilities to install the system themselves.
Pre-wired and factory tested, it took two mechanics and one electrician 40 hours over a 15-day period to have their central system up and running. Note: A majority of these hours came from laying down heavy-duty schedule 40 piping.
After installation and performance
"After installation, performance has been great, and it has been very successful in terms of maintenance. We use it every week — sometimes twice — and everyone is happy with it," said Lucena. In fact, the first system was so good they’ve installed a second system to clean up limestone.
"We are able to do the clean-up twice a week, and with this frequency, we remain clean nearly all the time. If a conveyor has a problem and we have spillage, we can clean up right away, without a vacuum truck."
ArcelorMittal achieved their return on investment within months. To date, the Contrecoeur locations have installed seven of these vacuums throughout multiple plants handling coking coal, fly ash, lime dust, limestone, scale, various chemical reagents and heavy steel pellets.
Anh-Tai Vuong is president, corporate sales and business development, at DuroVac, a manufacturer of industrial vacuums designed for rugged applications. With a Bachelor of Engineering from McGill University, Vuong has worked in industrial sales his entire professional life. He specializes in aluminum smelters (primary metals), potash and fertilizers (mining), steel mills and foundries (primary metals) and combustible dust.