Everyone knows oil and water don’t mix. But both have important roles to play in industrial processes, and both must be handled carefully and in compliance with all environmental and safety regulations. Employee teams at two of our facilities in Cleveland, Ohio, and Weirton, West Virginia, have developed new approaches to handling and recovering industrial oils more sustainably. Their smart solutions are paying off in less waste, reduced impact on the environment, lower costs and safer work environments.
In 2015, General Electric’s (GE) Power & Water group awarded our Cleveland maintenance engineering utilities (MEU) hot strip mill water treatment plant its prestigious Return on Environment Award. The award recognizes customers for significantly surpassing environmental and industrial operational goals, while meeting industrial demands.
ArcelorMittal Cleveland received the award for a series of improvements made in its waste water treatment processes. These improvements have saved the company $410,000 and made the plant’s processes more sustainable.
It all began with an astute observation by an operator who noticed a change in condition and questioned it. Her question prompted a deeper analysis of how oils were being handled and separated by the water treatment system. A team of operators, skilled tradespeople and onsite contractors developed a number of process improvements designed to more effectively remove oil from the water recycling system. This has resulted in cleaner process water for the hot mill operation, fewer chemicals needed to separate oils, less oil build-up and damage on equipment, and reduced waste.
“Our team members are looking at anomalies and we are digging into ‘why’ it happened instead of repairing and moving on. We feel that this will sustain our jobs and the business. The GE team played a huge role in helping us get to the root cause. They have been a great partner and we are honored to receive this award,” said Irvin Smith, water treatment plant manager, ArcelorMittal Cleveland.
In addition, a new system at our Weirton facility’s No. 9 tandem mill is drastically improving the mill’s rolling oil recovery. The project has made the system more environmentally sustainable and cost efficient, and hasimproved ergonomics for solution tenders who work on the system.
The old oil recovery system had an unnecessarily complex design of 10 tanks. The oil and wastewater moved from tank to tank for various treatments to assist in the separation of oil and water. As this oil solution was pumped from tank to tank – emulsifying and expanding – overflow was an expensive and frequent problem, generating waste that was disposed in a landfill. Also, with the old system employees frequently had to climb ladders running up the sides of the 10 tanks to assess problems and conduct their work.
A new and more sustainable oil recovery system was created through a collaboration between the facility and General Electric. “This project was a good example of the salaried and union workforce working together and combining technical expertise and know-how to arrive at a much improved solution that will save both money and landfill space,” explained Matt Caprarese, division manager, MEU, ArcelorMittal Weirton.
The new system uses only two of the 10 original tanks, minimizes expansion of the oil solution and uses a significantly improved system of separation. It also has spiral steps around the tanks to take away the strain of repeated ladder climbing for solution workers. By accomplishing these things, the new system is reducing costs, improving environmental performance and providing improved ergonomics for employees. With the new system, the separated water has a significantly reduced concentration of oil and grease – less than 10 percent of what it previously was. “We are recovering about 40 more gallons of oil each day that would have previously been landfilled. Now we are capturing it and the oil is being recycled in another operation,” said Caprarese.
Also, with the overflow problem eliminated, regular contractor costs for the oil recovery system have been reduced to one-eighth of what they were with the old 10 tank system. The need to solidify this oil for landfill disposal has also been eliminated.
“This was a real team effort that was completed from start to finish safely with no injuries,” said Rich McCullough, lead engineer, maintenance and project lead on the oil recovery project. “The successful completion of this project provides a significant environmental improvement and cost savings to Weirton.”