The Last Great Martin Furnace

On March 23rd, 2018, Russia`s last large Martin furnace stopped its production. Now it`s possible to observe steel production of such a scale only in pictures. That’s why we assigned our photographer to travel there and take pictures of the last steel heating, and now we would like to share the photos with you. Update: now with explanations!

Ph.1 Here is how the metal boils, at about 1530–1550 degrees Celsius. The argon blowing is used from the bottom to facilitate the release of harmful impurities. All captions are provided by Gdalex

The first Martin (open-hearth) furnace was built in Vyksa in 1892 at the Vyksa Steel Works territory.

Ph.2 Stand with the number of current melting (usually 07 — the furnace number, 3 numbers — the numerical order of the melting).

The introduction and development of the Martin furnace in Vyksa contributed 40% of the growth of steel production.

Ph.3 The loading shutter is open. We can see how the flame emerges from the furnace.

The capacity of the steelmaking shop, which consists of two Martin furnaces, a complex of non-furnace treatment and casting of steel, was 500,000 tons of steel per year.

Ph.4 The same as in the previous photo but from a different angle.

Ph.5 The element of fire inside the furnace.

Today, Vyksa Steel Works is a part of the United Metallurgical Company (AO OMK).

Ph.6 Observation window in the furnace.

Ph.7 Taking a metal sample for chemical analysis.

Ph.8 The same as in the previous photo. The metal is crystallized and is in the laboratory.

The company`s management has decided to stop the work of the steelmaking shop because OMK is now using more modern steel making technologies.

Ph.9 A steelworker watches how the loading shutter closes.

Ph.10 Manual filling of additives (coal, in all likelihood).

The shutdown of the shop will reduce the load on Vyksa and the surrounding areas’ ecology by 10 times.

Ph.11 Finished steel casting in a bucket.

Ph.12 Again the element of fire.

Ph.13 More sample taking.

All employees of the closing workshops will be retrained to work in the company`s other workshops including the recently opened foundry and rolling complex, as well as in the Vyksa pipe shop, the construction of which is almost completed.

Ph.14 Steelworkers doing their craft.

Ph.15 More working shots of the steelworkers.

Ph.16 According to tradition, during the last melting, Evgeny Vyatin (37 years of experience!) threw his watch into the bucket with the hot metal.

Ph.17 Evgeny Stepanovich is giving a command to «Lift the bucket!»

NUST MISIS OMK-sponsored Bachelor`s degree students are watching the work of steelworkers. They came to the plant to learn more about the classic and modern technologies of producing and processing steel.

Ph.18 NUST MISIS students on tour.

Ph.19 NUST MISIS students on tour.

The students were amazed.

Ph.20 Steel discharge from the furnace.

Ph.21 Steel discharge from the furnace.

Ph.22 Steel discharge from the furnace. The capacity of the standard bucket is 100–150 tons, and the furnace — 280–300 tons. That’s why steel production goes into two buckets. Since the furnace outlet is at the bottom, the steel in the first bucket is considered to be of higher quality. The steel waste and slag is drained into the second one.

Ph.23 Removal of slag from the second bucket. The «cleaver», with which the slag is swept from the surface into the slag plot, is visible.

The last casting is completed.

Ph.24 Both buckets on the ladle processing furnace (most likely it is a ladle furnace where steel is brought to the desired grade).

Ph.25 Steelworker`s tools.

The shop has stopped. It hasn’t yet been decided what will come of it.

Ph.26 General view of the shop.

Bonus: Ph.27 One of the 20 surviving Shukhov Towers, built by engineer V.G. Shukhov in 1898, is on the Vyksa Steel Works territory.

P.S. If you are eager to see how the open-hearth furnace works you still have a chance to do it in Russia. There are two furnaces with a total output of 210 thousand tons of steel at the Guryevsk Metallurgical Plant, and there are also 4 furnaces at the Petrostal Metallurgical Plant, with a total of 170–240 thousand tons of steel. And when these plants also cease production, only Ukraine and India will remain using this steel melting technology with the help of open-hearth furnaces.

Photographer: Sergey Gnuskov.

P.P.S. Pavel Chernousov, a metallurgy historian and the Director of the NUST MISIS Museum, explains that the versatility of the open-hearth furnace is one of its most valuable qualities. By adding ingredients during the melting process we can produce steel of almost any grade. The wide range of iron-containing materials, iron, and scrap metal (in almost any proportion) can be used for its production.

Low productivity remains their main disadvantage: with the help of an electric arc furnace it is possible to melt five to six times more steel than with an open-hearth furnace. But for converters and electric furnaces, it is necessary to carefully prepare the raw material — the batch, or the furnace itself is used as a melting unit, and steel with the necessary parameters is obtained on a special finishing unit. That is why the appropriate infrastructure for the production of materials for smelting and assemblies capable of producing metals of specific grades is now being developed around the world.

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