Paul Wurth – getting ready for the steel industry’s transformation

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Under the chairmanship of Michel Wurth, the Ordinary General Meeting of shareholders of Société Anonyme Paul WURTH was held on 14 May 2019 to approve amongst others the financial statements for the year 2018.

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14/05/2019 |
  • SAIL Bhilai Blast furnace 8

Thanks to an ambitious research and innovation programme and the development of future-oriented solutions, Paul Wurth is resolutely facing up to the challenges for the steel industry, triggered by the huge trends “decarbonisation” and “industry 4.0”.

Economic climate and commercial situation

Despite the recent recovery in demand, the steel industry is facing major challenges, particularly with regard to energy and climate policies, the threat of trade wars and technological change in the face of global digitalisation. This increased pressure for transformation affects not only the steel producers’ willingness to invest but also influences the strategic decisions that Paul Wurth is making today about its future.

The main feature of 2018 for the Paul Wurth Group was the record volume of new orders. The amount of orders received, 553 million euros, represented a considerable increase (78%) over the previous year. Almost half of the new orders came from cokemaking. These commercial successes were partly due to the fact that Paul Wurth has become a full-line supplier for cokemaking technology. Also in the field of blast furnace activities, Paul Wurth is taking part in virtually all modernisation and relining projects in Europe and Russia thanks to its proven technologies. From a geographic perspective, the Russian territory represented the largest market in 2018 (42%) before the Group’s traditional home market Western Europe (36%).

Operational activity

In 2018, the first reference project for the Paul Wurth / Midrex Technologies consortium, the construction of a MIDREX® direct reduction plant at Tosyali in Algeria, was successfully completed and the world’s biggest plant (2.5 million tonnes per year) was producing the first cold direct reduced iron towards the end of the year.

Also in terms of project execution, a complex project at SAIL’s Bhilai steelworks in India was completed with the firing of the new blast furnace No. 8. With an inner volume of 4 060 m3 and a hearth diameter of 13.4 metres, BF8 is now the largest blast furnace that Paul Wurth has ever commissioned in India. Paul Wurth’s state-of-the-art technologies were also used on EVRAZ NTMK’s new blast furnace No. 7 in Russia, to the customer’s complete satisfaction, being blown-in in February 2018 after taking only 18 months to build.

Results for the financial year 2018

Turnover for the year was 424.8 million euros, up by 8.5% from the level reported in 2017. Paul Wurth closed the financial year 2018 with a net profit of 14.1 million euros. The General Meeting approved the payment of an unchanged gross dividend of 52.5 euros per share on account of the 2018 financial year.

Towards green steel

The development and use of environmentally friendly and climate-neutral processes will characterise the steel sector over the next few years and the decades to come. The steel industry is one of the biggest industrial emitters of greenhouse gas, accounting for about 7% of global CO2 emissions. Under the Paris Climate Agreement to combat global warming, especially integrated steelworks must take drastic measures to meet the targets for the future reduction of CO2 emissions. One such scenario to reach this is hydrogen-based iron ore reduction, which replaces fossil carbon with green hydrogen in the reduction process.

Against this backdrop, in December 2018 Paul Wurth took a minority shareholding in the German cleantech company Sunfire GmbH, which is developing its own high-temperature electrolyser to produce valuable hydrogen from steam and electricity. When using energy from renewable sources, we speak about green hydrogen and thus green steel. By cooperating as a technology partner, Paul Wurth has access to a team of hydrogen specialists and to a promising technology with good development potential in the steel industry.

Before customers decide to opt for a complete change of technology, solutions to save CO2 at existing plants are needed. Currently, Paul Wurth is concentrating on developing a wide range of technological solutions designed to stepwise reduce CO2 emissions in the classic blast furnace route, thereby striking a sensible balance between ambitious environmental targets and economic constraints. The primary aim of these solutions is to achieve efficient metallurgical use of process off-gases.

Industry 4.0

The steel industry is also experiencing a profound change due to digitalisation, which is making the connected industry smarter, more performant and more sustainable. That is why Paul Wurth, in close cooperation with SMS group, is also seeking to exploit the full potential of digital innovations by developing digital solutions based on the Group’s plant and process know-how. Xpert process control systems, smart equipment, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning offer many innovative areas for application and go hand in hand with new, performance-based business models. In its construction and infrastructure projects, Paul Wurth Geprolux is also focusing more and more on digital tools for project management activities, technical building design and building information modelling (BIM).

Paul Wurth's solutions have always adapted to market requirements. Therefore, the company has set itself the goal today of accompanying its customers on the way to sustainably optimised, CO2-free steel production with innovative technologies.

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