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Continuous Improvement – Hot taphole jackhammer

17 May 2022

Electric arc furnaces (EAFs) are the heart of our steel manufacturing business – running 24/7 to produce high quality steel products for our customers.

An important part of the EAF is the taphole which is a hole in the bottom of the furnace that allows molten steel to flow from the furnace into a ladle (known as tapping the furnace) at the end of each heat, or batch of steel.

Tapholes are made of refractory brick rings which wear away and need to be renewed weekly. Before a new taphole can be installed, the old rings need to be removed or demolished, and after installation, the surrounding refractory lining needs to be backfilled.

With our current 24/7 operations, the tapholes are changed while the furnace is still hot and entry into the furnace isn’t possible.

To improve the safety of our operators and maintain productivity, the team at our Laverton mill commissioned an ingenious hot taphole jackhammer on an overhead crane to remove the old taphole and grout pump to backfill the gap by pumping from below. This has resulted in safer and more efficient taphole changes.

The improvements have been remarkable:

  • Reduced heat exposure for operators and bricklayers
  • Reduced taphole removal time from 60 minutes to less than five minutes
  • Consistent filling of the annular gap by pumping grout from below – eliminating voids and improving the integrity and safety of the refractories
  • Increasing taphole refractory life by allowing the flexibility to run an additional 24 hours before changing the taphole

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