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Mining the most out of a shredder and scrap steam

Aug 03, 2017 | 08:00 PM | Bette Kovach


In an effort to cut costs and more fully utilize an on-site shredder, Gerdau installed a new, nonferrous scrap separation system at its Jackson, Tenn., mill that has generated significant returns for the steelmaker and earned it AMM’s 2017 Steel Excellence Award for Raw Materials/Consumables Provider of the Year, a new category this year.

“Gerdau invested in this upgrade at the Jackson mill to maximize the use of its existing 8,000-horsepower, mega-shredder and on-site landfill,” Eric Stanly, scrap operations superintendent, at the Jackson mill, explained. “Implementing the nonferrous scrap separation system allows the company to mine and recover additional material and maximize overall revenue to minimize scrap costs to the melt shop,” he said.
The system increases the ability to recover nonferrous metals from the scrap stream.  It sorts and extracts stainless steel, copper, aluminum and other nonferrous materials not used in steelmaking. 

Although the initial goal of the project was to recover 30 million pounds of material annually—nearly two times the volume of nonferrous materials the previous system recovered—the new system has recovered more ferrous products than anticipated. As a result, the mill has reduced the amount of material going to the landfill.

Groundbreaking to make way for the installation of the system took place in June 2015 and the $20-million project was completed in May 2016. “Gerdau contracted several external providers to help construct the new scrap separation system,” Stanly said. “However, Gerdau leadership worked closely with both state and local business and governmental agencies during the planning, design and implementation phases of the project.

“By doing so, Gerdau was able to obtain the necessary approvals and grants, which have since been applied toward training new and existing employees to operate the nonferrous scrap separation system,” he explained. “Gerdau employees from several departments contributed to the success of this project,” he noted. “Specifically, about 30 employees from the scrap, maintenance, and engineering departments and over 130 contractors were engaged.”

Throughout the construction phase of the project, the Jackson mill maintained its outstanding safety record.  The mill has not recorded a lost time accident (LTA) in the past three years. In addition, the scrap operations have not had an LTA since 2013. Some 84,000 man-hours were worked during construction of the separator system with only one OSHA recordable.

In operation, the new technology uses air aspiration and magnetic sensors to extract nonferrous metals.  Since the system’s implementation, the recovery of both ferrous and nonferrous materials has been enhanced, reducing the volume of material sent to the landfill. 

Automotive shred residue from the plant’s shredding operation and landfill are processed through the system. The materials are sized, and aluminum, stainless steel, insulated copper wire and mixed copper metal fines are removed. The extracted ferrous metals are reused in the melting operation, and the nonferrous scrap metals are sold and recycled in other manufacturing processes.

Recovered nonferrous materials are sold primarily to companies supplying the automotive market. “Our customers will further refine the product and ultimately melt it to produce automotive parts,” Stanly explained. “The red metals produced are further refined and sent to the secondary copper market as brass, bronze, and other secondary copper products.”

The scrap separation system has been so well received that Gerdau installed a nearly identical separation facility at its Whitby, Ontario, Canada mill, and plans to implement a third system at Gerdau’s Midlothian, Texas plant are being finalized. At Midlothian, the new system will replace an existing facility that sorts nonferrous scrap using water. Installing the new ‘dry system’ will conserve water and is designed to capture nonferrous metals more efficiently.

Investing in the new-generation separation system has enabled Gerdau to recover some 30-million pounds of nonferrous material annually that it then sells to other businesses for reuse. It also created 30 new, Jackson-based jobs.

“This investment has allowed us to compete in a very competitive market,” Stanly summarized.


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