INOX Air Products-Tata Steel sign record-setting industrial gas production deal

India’s largest manufacturer of industrial and medical gases INOX Air Products (INOXAP) has won a contract from Tata Steel to set up two air separation units (ASUs) at Tata Steel’s Meramandali Plant, located in the Dhenkanal district of Odisha, India.

Commissioned at a cost of around Rs 1300 Crores ($158m), the two ASUs will have the capacity to produce 1800 tonnes of oxygen per day, in addition to nitrogen and argon.

The ASUs will also have the provision to generate rare gases such as neon, krypton and xenon.

The record-setting deal represents the single largest Greenfield investment ever made by INOXAP and marks the company’s first-ever collaboration with Tata Steel.

Commenting on the new partnership, Siddharth Jain, Managing Director at INOXAP, said, “Our first-ever onsite partnership with Tata Steel also marks our largest ever Greenfield investment and also the facility with the largest liquid gases manufacturing capacity at a single location of more than 600 TPD (tonnes per day).”

“The development would strengthen our market leadership, besides augmenting our presence in Eastern India. The plants would underscore our unwavering commitment to delivering top-notch onsite services to some of the biggest names in the Indian manufacturing sector.”

How are industrial gases used within steel production?

Important for its reactivity, oxygen is used in steel processing and in welding and cutting of steel. The gas is used to enrich air and increase combustion temperatures in blast furnaces as well as to replace coke with other combustible materials such as pulverised coal, fuel oil or natural gas.

During the steelmaking process by basic oxygen furnace (BOF), unwanted carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon oxides, which leave as gases. Oxygen is also fed into the steel bath through a special lance, in addition to increasing the productivity rate in electric arc furnaces (EAF).

Valued for its inertness, nitrogen is used in the steel industry as purging gas for pipeline purging, as a coolant in the dry quenching of hot coke, as a cooling gas in the blast furnace top, as a carrier gas, as an inert gas in the bottom blowing convert and as a shield gas in the heat treatment of iron and steel.

In addition to its use for bottom blowing in the combined blowing process of steelmaking, argon is used for stirring of liquid steel in teeming ladles and as a shield gas in continuous casting of steel. It is also used in AOD (argon oxygen decarburisation) converter where it is blown in the molten metal along with oxygen.

Having served the Indian steel industry for more than 60 years, INOXAP sees the investment as an opportunity to expand its presence in East India.

“We are pleased to collaborate with INOXAP on this significant partnership, as we continue to strengthen the operations of our steel works at Meramandali, Odisha,” enthused Avneesh Gupta, Vice President TQM and Engineering & Projects at Tata Steel.

Steelmaker burns oxygen opening for production of cast iron from a high furnace

The company supplies technologies and gases to support areas of steel production such as BF enrichment, EAF oxygen lancing, ladle furnace pre-heating (oxy-fuel burners), RHF enrichment, argon oxygen decarburisation, oxy-fuel assisted melting and molten metal blanketing (MMB) in induction furnace.

As of December 2022, India was the world’s second-largest producer of crude steel, with an output of 124.5m tonnes of crude steel and finished steel production of 117.6m tonnes in CY22 (close of year).

The industry is experiencing an increase in investment by entities from other sectors, with extra consolidation presenting an opportunity to global players to enter the Indian market.

This robust demand is expected to see the country’s finished steel consumption increase to 230m tonnes by 2030-31 from 133.6m tonnes in financial year 2022.

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