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posted: 12/18/2012 10:32 AM

Project boosting East Chicago steel mill's energy efficiency

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Associated Press

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. -- The startup of equipment at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor to recycle blast furnace gas for electricity production was lauded at the integrating steelmaking complex as a tribute to partnerships between the public and private sector.

Officials from several entities including ArcelorMittal, the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Steelworkers celebrated the completion of a $63.2 million project to install a new energy efficient boiler and upgrade facilities on the east side of Indiana Harbor.

Operators have been producing steam from the boiler system for about three months, said Wendell Carter, vice president and general manager of ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor. But a small group of company personnel led officials and media on a short tour of the operation Monday and orchestrated a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the No. 5 boiler house.

"ArcelorMittal is committed to investing in projects which will hopefully green the environment," Carter told The Times of Munster.

Through grant funding made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Department of Energy committed to provide ArcelorMittal with half of the $63.2 million project cost in 2009. Major project work began in early 2011 to build a new water system and upgrade the boiler house to add a new boiler, which would reduce the need for flaring gas produced by the No. 7 blast furnace. The company said the project also helps lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its reliance on electricity from coal-fired power plants.

Gil Sperling of the Department of Energy said without the assistance from the federal government, the project at ArcelorMittal would not have happened. Sperling, senior adviser in the department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, also said President Barack Obama signed an executive order in August to facilitate investments in industrial energy efficiency projects because of their potential for cost savings and strengthening American manufacturing.

"This says to me that when you've got great leadership in the White House, great leadership in the Congress and in state and local governments working with the genius of the private sector, great things happen," Sperling said.

About 78 percent of gas produced at the blast furnace is used to heat stoves at the blast furnace and to make steam at the No. 5 boiler house. The remaining 22 percent was flared into the atmosphere prior to the project. Carter said the portion of gas that will be flared should soon shrink to about 5 percent of what is produced.

The blast furnace gas, which will be about 46 billion cubic feet of gas per year, will be captured and transported to a new boiler where it will generate 350,000 pounds of steam per hour. The steam is then used to produce electricity through existing generators. Company officials estimate the process can produce enough electricity to power 30,000 homes annually and save $20 million in energy costs.

Carter said the boiler project is among $286 million spent on various capital improvement efforts at Indiana Harbor.

"Hopefully we can continue doing investments in Northwest Indiana for a long time to come," said United Steelworkers Local 1010 President Tom Hargrove, who represents hourly production and maintenance workers at Indiana Harbor.

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