Expert system blast furnace

Primetals Technologies is the leading supplier of blast furnace automation systems for the iron and steel industries. This is especially true for blast furnace process optimization systems, which are operating in more than 70 installations worldwide—with furnaces of all sizes, ranging from 500 m³ up to 5800 m³.

The package of solutions for automated blast furnace operation­—the VAiron Blast Furnace Optimization system—was developed in close cooperation with voestalpine Stahl in Linz, Austria. Its technology is based on advanced process models, artificial intelligence, mass and energy balances, a closed-loop Expert System for fully automatic operation, and other advanced software.

The ultimate aim in blast furnace operation is to reach stable furnace conditions and stable hot-metal quality
at the lowest-possible production costs. The VAiron Blast Furnace Optimization system monitors the process 24 hours per day, taking corrective actions in a closed loop if necessary. The system thus counteracts changes in the process caused by fluctuations of process parameters such as raw-material quality. In doing so, the Expert System provides explanations of its decision-making process for full transparency.

A vitally important part of the system is its knowledge base, which was built and which is supplied to steel producers on the basis of vast experience gathered in various blast furnace projects. This knowledge base can be modified and extended to adapt to the customer’s specific operational philosophy and practice.

A blast furnace working under the supervision of the Expert System helps to avoid heavy control actions and critical process situations by reacting quickly as conditions change—increasing the furnace lifetime. Rule-based operation equalizes the operational decisions over all shifts, leading to highly stable furnace conditions, consistent hot-metal quality, and reduced coke rate. As a result of these benefits, the investment typically pays for itself within only a few months.