The investment in a mechanical vacuum pump system at the Imatra steelworks is the first solution of its kind in Finland’s steel industry. It has replaced the previous steam ejector pump system with the objective to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and cut the volume of cooling water used. The new technology has also enabled the production of higher-quality special steels and the development of special steel grades for future needs. Furthermore, the new technology has accelerated the production process. 

“The old system was outdated in terms of energy efficiency, and since vacuum degassing is an important stage of special steel production, we wanted to upgrade it. The vacuum process involves removing gases, especially hydrogen, that dissolve in the liquid steel and weaken the final product. The vacuum process is now 80% more energy efficient than before. That is a major change and it reduces the annual energy consumption of our steelworks by 5%. The results of the investment are even better than expected,” says Ovako Imatra’s Environmental Manager Hanna Vuolteenaho.

Vuolteenaho is pleased not only with the energy savings, but also with the investment’s positive environmental impacts, which are Ovako’s key selling points for energy- and environmentally aware customers. 

“The carbon footprint of our steel products is already up to 80% lower than the global average, but we want to be even better. Along with the renewal of the vacuum pump system, the steelworks’ carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 4,500 tons per year, thanks to the reduced consumption of natural gas. At the same time, the cooling water required by the old technology is no longer needed, which means the load on the site’s water processing facility has dropped by roughly 20% per year. The steelworks’ heavy metal load on the water system, particularly zinc and lead, has also decreased,” says Vuolteenaho. 

The Energy Genius of the Year 2020 recognition was granted to Ovako Imatra Oy Ab on Wednesday, November 18th, 2020, in connection with the “Energianerokas Suomi – TALKCAST” online event. The award was accepted by Helena Kumpulainen, Ovako Imatra’s HR, Communications and EHS Director. In explaining its decision, the jury said the vacuum pump solution was “an energy genius pioneering solution in the steel industry. An important and impressive measure for both the mill and Finland, with numerous cross-cutting benefits for the environment, the production process and business. This action proves that, within existing production processes, it is possible to make major energy leaps that have a domino effect in terms of benefits.”