India’s largest steel maker Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and Kobe Steel of Japan today signed a memorandum of agreement at Kobe’s headquarters in Tokyo for setting up a 0.5 million tonne per annum iron nugget making plant using Kobe’s patented ITmK3 technology at SAIL’s Alloy Steels Plant in Durgapur, West Bengal, India with an investment of Rs. 1,500 crore. As per the agreement, SAIL and Kobe Steel will be entitled to equal share of production from the plant for captive use. A joint venture company ‘SAIL-Kobe Iron India Pvt. Ltd.’ in which SAIL and Kobe Steel hold equal equity, has already been incorporated.
The agreement was signed by SAIL Chairman Mr. C.S. Verma and Kobe Steel President & CEO Mr. N. Sato in the august presence of Shri Beni Prasad Verma, Union Minister for Steel, Govt. of India, Shri D.R.S. Chaudhary, Secretary (Steel), Govt. of India, Shri U.P. Singh, Joint Secretary (Steel), Govt. of India, and other senior Indian officials from SAIL & Kobe Steel including Shri Rakesh Kulshreshtha, Executive Director, SAIL & Chairman, SAIL-Kobe Iron India Pvt Limited.
Speaking on the occasion, Steel Minister Shri Beni Prasad Verma expressed his happiness at the joint venture of SAIL and Kobe Steel and was optimistic about more projects for the Indian steel industry with the help of Japanese technology. “The ITmK3 technology will also utilize dump iron ore fines, disposal of which has become an environmental issue,” he said. Secretary (Steel) Shri D.R.S. Chaudhury assured that Ministry of Steel, Govt. of India would provide full support for the project.
SAIL Chairman Mr. C.S. Verma remarked, “With this joint venture with Kobe, SAIL is going to achieve twin objectives of bringing in latest technology to the country, and also adopting environment-friendly processes. This will be a milestone in the history of SAIL, setting new benchmarks of international collaboration in the field of iron-making. This is the first step of our collaboration with Kobe which could extend to other areas in future.”
Expressing his earnest wish that ITmk3 technology will contribute, through this joint venture project with SAIL, to further development of Indian Steel industry, Kobe Steel President Mr. Sato agreed with SAIL Chairman stating “this ITmk3 JV project will become a golden opportunity for the both companies to explore other fields where we can collaborate for mutual benefit”.
Kobe Steel is one of the prominent steel makers of Japan, which is the world’s second largest steel producing country. It is one of the largest suppliers of alloy steels to Japanese automobile companies. Besides ITmK3, Kobe has also developed new cutting-edge technologies like the Midrex process which has been recognized the world over for producing iron using gaseous fuel. Both ITmK3 and Midrex technologies have successfully replaced coal as an input material for iron making and are recognized for their low energy consumption and environment friendliness.
Known as pioneers in iron & steel R&D, Kobe Steel has developed new products and technologies which have enormous utilization potential in numerous industries and social infrastructure development. This gives an opportunity for Indian steel firms to enter into strategic relationships with Kobe Steel so that strengths of respective companies could be leveraged.
The SAIL-Kobe Steel JV project will harness the strengths of both the leading steel companies. While SAIL will contribute land, iron ore and other engineering services for the project, Kobe steel will provide the technology for setting up the plant and its operation. In a way it is win-win situation for both.
SAIL and Kobe Steel had earlier signed an MoU on 30 March 2010 for conducting a joint feasibility study for exploring and commercialization of ITmk3 technology developed by Kobe for production of iron nuggets used for steel production. The pre-feasibility study prima facie establishes that the project is economically viable.
For production of 0.5 million tonnes of iron nuggets, the plant to be set up at SAIL’s Alloy Steels Plant in Durgapur will require around 0.8 million tonnes of iron ore fines per annum. The Gua Iron Ore Mines of SAIL will supply 0.64 million tonnes per annum of fines from fresh arisings and 0.16 million tonnes per annum from dumped fines to meet this requirement. Output from the proposed plant will be shared between SAIL and Kobe Steel for captive use in their own plants/joint ventures.
ITMk3 stands for ‘iron making technology mark three’. This is a proprietary technology of Kobe for producing a premium quality pig iron (nuggets). One of the features of ITmk3 process is that it can produce iron nuggets by utilizing relatively low-grade iron ore fines and non-coking coal as major raw materials and does not require either iron ore lump or blast furnace coke/coking-coal. Also, ITmK3 does not require coke oven plant or sinter plant for producing iron nuggets. CO2 emission is also less as compared to production through the blast furnace route, making the technology very environment-friendly.