Environment improvement initiatives

Caring for the endangered frog

A pond habitat was established at BlueScope’s Port Kembla Steelworks in 2008 to foster the migration and growth of the endangered Green and Gold Bell Frog species within the area. The species has been in decline over the last few years and had not been sighted at the Port Kembla Steelworks since 2010.

Many employees have volunteered to maintain the pond habitat by removing noxious plants, repairing any damage to the perimeter fence, topping up water levels and implementing controls to ward off predatory species.

Audits are also conducted to monitor and record sightings of tadpoles and frogs. During routine audits in March 2017, as many as fourteen individual Green and Gold Bell Frogs were sighted, confirming the return of the species to the region.

Reduction in water use at Slabmaking

Slabmaking is one of the largest water consumers within the Port Kembla Steelworks. During FY2016, a number of projects were executed including:

  • repairing leaks,
  • running less blowdown to the Sinter Plant,
  • and reducing slabs through the cooler.

These projects have resulted in a total water saving of 224,100 kL (equivalent to 90 Olympic swimming pools each year).

Reduction in hydrogen sulfide from quenching process at Cokemaking

Cokemaking improvements have reduced emissions generated when coke is cooled during the quenching process. This work involved modifications to equipment such as hot cars and modified water application which in turn has improved coke handling efficiencies and reduced hydrogen sulphide emissions.

More environmental improvement initiatives

As energy costs continue to rise, the opportunities to reduce energy consumption becomes critical to the successful operation of our business.

Since 2014, BlueScope have implemented a range of projects to reduce energy use by our Casting Machines at the Port Kembla Steelworks.

This is where liquid steel is transformed into a solid shape - called a slab.

There have been more than 25 of these projects across Operations, Maintenance, Engineering and our Technical Group, the net result being a reduction in electricity intensity of 35%, or annual electricity savings of 75,000GJ.

This reduction is not only good for business, but for the environment as well. It’s the equivalent of reducing 17,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted each year or the electricity needed to power 1,220 homes in NSW.


In late 2017, the BlueScope team at our Springhill Works (Port Kembla Steelworks) trialed a new process which

involved turning off some unneeded ovens when applying Silkote at the Number 3 Coating and Painting line.

The capital investment was modest: one bottle of coke for a BlueScope Combustion Equipment Specialist who kindly re-programmed the software to automate the new process.

Whilst a simple idea, it had an enormous benefit. Per annum, the changes save over $60,000, reduce our energy usage equivalent to turning off over 1,000 home heaters, in turn saving tonnes of C02 emissions, as well as improving plant efficiency by reducing roller setup times.

A great success story for Springhill, with the new system now fully operational for all future orders of Silkote.

Our Western Sydney Service Centre transports coils to our internal and external customers. The coils are generally wrapped in 65 μm thick plastic to avoid damage to the coil exterior.

A successful trial was conducted using 35 μm thick plastic. Part of the trial included ensuring the stretch wrapper machine was capable of using the thinner plastic and coils were transported to customers to measure any damage that may have resulted in using the thinner material.

Implementation of the new thinner plastic wrap has resulted in a reduction of over 8.5 tonnes of plastic waste going into landfill each year, a cost saving of approximately $22,000 p.a., and improved efficiencies achieved through the reduction of roll changing frequency.

Our slab caster at Port Kembla is just one piece of the puzzle in our steelmaking process. A slab caster is a facility for casting molten steel into a semi-finished product of various sizes. We call the product at this stage a slab, and slabs can have a thickness of between 120mm – 600mm and a width of 700mm or more.

And how do we cut them to size? Using very large torch cutters where the metal is preheated with a flame and then oxidised rapidly and removed by a jet of oxygen through the pre-heating flame. The torch cutting process plays a critical role in slab caster yield.

Torch cutters are fitted with nozzles and we recently fitted more efficient nozzles on 2 of the casting machines (strand 3 and 4) at the slab caster. Slabs can now be cut faster and natural gas consumption has been reduced by over 19,700 Nm3 or 750 GJ per annum. Almost $150,000 in savings through the reduction in cutting kerf (the material removed during cutting the slab) of 1mm.

2017 marked another year for employees at our Springhill site in Port Kembla to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty during Clean Up Australia Day.

The majority of waste collected was found in public areas around the site, including footpaths and gardens.

Volunteers also took the opportunity to test out their green thumbs with a little gardening - planting new trees and shrubs and pruning existing foliage on the site.

What better way to celebrate the efforts of volunteers than to clean up a slice of pizza… or two!

While Clean Up Australia Day represents an amazing effort from everyone involved we need to treat every day like it’s Clean Up Day.

Shipping Berth 112 coal and the coke loader at Port Kembla was demolished in 1997 due to structural failure. Since then, trucks have been used to transport coke product from the Inner Harbour stockpile to another berth.

With some of the Berth 112 infrastructure still in place, work was undertaken to re-establish a dedicated vessel loader. The newly designed and installed loader processes approximately 600 tonnes per hour of Coke on a 24 hour x 7 day operation whilst vessels are alongside the berth.

The new conveyor system design - complete with covers, an enclosed screening station and wider telescopic conveyors - minimises dust emissions, recycles cargo fines into sintering and blast furnace processes, and minimises the potential for spillage into Port Kembla Harbour.

In addition, the reduction in approximately 13,500 trucking hours p.a. on internal roads has also contributed to reduced dust and fugitive dust emissions.

During the No.5 Blast Furnace cast house floor trough repairs, a significant amount of waste products are generated including refractory material, iron skulls and sand. A reclamation program was put in place to minimise the stockpiled waste by extracting materials for on-selling and reintroducing other materials back into the steelmaking process.

These reclamation activities have reduced the amount of material required to be stockpiled by 1600t, with the resultant reclaimed material (iron skulls) able to be recycled in the steelmaking process.

During 2016, a project was initiated to identify opportunities for re-using as many timbers as possible for the transportation of Tru-Spec® interstate. Prior to the project, dunnage cost approximately $1,000 per shift x 3 shifts per day (equivalent to ~$20,000 per week) for the necessary timbers required to meet the load restraint guidelines.

Timber that has pre-attached rubber at the top and bottom sides was seen as a viable replacement. The timber selected is 45% lighter which saves assembling time and results in better utilisation and transportation fleets. Unlike the original timber, which was previously often discarded, this modified timber is reused. This change has reduced demand on our natural resources and saves BlueScope almost $270,000 per annum.

This project consisted of identifying opportunities to recycle organic waste generated at the laboratory instead of sending the waste off site for treatment and disposal. A number of strategies were identified where the waste products could be introduced into existing waste treatment processes within steelmaking processes e.g. waste water and organics. The diversion of waste, previously sent offsite for treatment or landfill, has minimised handling risks, increased resource recovery and delivered an annual saving of $4,070 in avoided waste disposal costs.

This project involved optimising the operation of the 21 Area Dedusting Fan to reduce running costs and electricity demand. This involved replacing the control system with a more reliable control panel which would allow the baghouse fan to be switched on and off when required. This has resulted in an electricity saving of over 1,691 MWh per annum. This equates to approximately 1,792 t CO2 emissions per annum which is equivalent to taking 377 motor vehicles off the road each year.

Clean Up Australia Day provides an opportunity for businesses and members of the community to actively engage in the collection of rubbish from within the local area. BlueScope Steel was once again involved in Clean Up Australia Day activities during March 2016. 2016 represents the fifteenth year of participation for both BlueScope sites within the Illawarra and Western Sydney region. BlueScope’s clean up activities extended beyond site boundaries as employees also targeted local beaches, neighbourhood parks and popular commuter areas, including train stations and bus stops.

Over 340 BlueScope employees from the Port Kembla Steelworks and Western Sydney Service Centre participated in Clean Up Australia Day activities in 2016. Their efforts resulted in the collection of 250 bags of general waste, mixed recyclables and domestic goods. Teams also improved the aesthetics of the site by removing weeds and planting native groundcover and shrubs.

The No. 4 Subs Area at Port Kembla Steelworks is used to temporarily store various materials used in operational processes by the Ironmaking department.

A team of BlueScope employees and contractors has worked towards putting additional controls in place to minimise or eliminate dust emissions from the stockpile.  These include:

  • Wetting down stockpile areas when high winds are forecast,
  • Water sprays that are automatically activated during high winds or when material is being transported,
  • Road sweeping to minimise drag out on roads,
  • Water cart to wet down material when required, and
  • Training employees and contractors engaged in the process.

The Cokemaking department has a complicated water balance. Water is used primarily for quenching coke and for cooling gas at the Gas Processing Plant. The quality of water required for gas cooling is higher than that for quenching.

A large air conditioning system has once through water cooling. The used cooling water was historically fed to the water make-up circuit for the quencher.

An improvement opportunity was identified where, due to the quality of the used air conditioning water, it could be diverted from the quencher circuit to the gas cooling circuit. This reduces the amount of fresh water used for gas cooling and also allowing additional recycled water to utilised in the quenching circuit.

As part of implementing the project, it was determined that the water feed to the air conditioning system could also be reduced by 30%.

The total water saving from the project is in the order of 150 kL/day.

Various materials are loaded onto vessels at BlueScope’s products berth in Port Kembla harbour. The process requires consideration of appropriate management of environmental risks given the proximity to the harbour. For materials which contain fines, such as copper concentrate, even more stringent management is required, in particular around loading the material into the hold of a vessel. If the material was tipped from above the hold, dust emissions could be generated which could then fall onto docks or into the harbour.

It was therefore proposed that a rotating spreader should be utilised in the loading process. This rotating spreader grasps containers that are uniquely designed for the process. These containers are lowered into the hold of the vessel and then tipped, thus minimising/eliminating the liberation of dust emissions.

All containers holding copper concentrate are modified so that they can be unloaded using the rotating spreader. This process has reduced waste and significantly reduced the potential for emissions to land, air and water.

BlueScope is committed to the efficient use of resources, preventing pollution, and reducing the environmental impact of its operations and products. We are continuously looking to reduce, reuse and recycle where we can. Recently a project was initiated to determine how we can recycle our printer cartridges and electronic waste without sending any waste to landfill.

A company called ‘Close the Loop Recycling’ was engaged to offer a complete recycling service for all printer cartridges. Within 5 months of this recycling service being in operation, over 1 tonne of cartridges had been recycled from the BlueScope Illawarra sites.

Similarly, a local company called Renewable Recyclers is currently engaged to recycle electronic wastes from across the site. Such wastes include computers, televisions, phones, cables etc. Large items that don’t meet the requirement for refurbishment are manually dismantled and separated into as many as 20 categories of materials and components including: power supply units, metal, plastic, cathode ray tubes and circuit boards. Parts that can be re-used or sold are saved as spare parts.

Rock slag is a very hot dry material that is generated during the Ironmaking process. This material is transported via truck from the Blast Furnace and stockpiled. Historically, dust emissions were generated when the material was tipped from the back of the truck. In order to supress dust emissions, recycled water was sprayed on the slag during tipping.

A number of investigations have been conducted to reduce dust emissions even further. A parallel trial of salt-based and polymer-based dust suppressants was conducted to determine the most effective solution. Both products were tested through various weather conditions. It was concluded that the polymer-based dust suppressant was more effective. The polymer-based coating forms a crust over the surface of the stockpile which is effective for up till several months. This has resulted in a significant saving of recycled water consumed as intermediate dust spraying is no longer required.

At the completion of every Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) heat, all loose materials (steel, slag and unconsumed fluxes) in the furnace are poured out prior to commencing the next heat. This resulted in the loss of steel, which compromises process yield, and fluxes that have not fully been consumed and could be used to treat the subsequent heat.

A project was initiated to investigate a method for retaining the slag, with the objective to increase the yield of each heat in a safe and environmentally sound manner. An additional benefit of this project would be the reduction in the consumption of fluxes and Coke Ovens Gas (COG) required for burning. The new method involved modifying control systems and developing a slag retention acceptance criterion that included specific parameters for temperature and visibility using the infra-red camera system.

This project has resulted in a more efficient use of resources and the generation of less waste.

On World Environment Day 2015, the Port Kembla Steelworks Slabmaking Team was announced the winner of the inaugural BlueScope Environment Award for their project: Waste Recovery and Minimisation of Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) Filter Cake.

The Waste Recovery and Minimisation of BOS Filter Cake project was a large-scale waste minimisation project that was recognised for its significant cost and environment savings through the efficient use of resources. The successful implementation of this project has eliminated the use of approximately 62,564 tonnes of iron ore resulting in a cost saving of AU$7.5 million and a reduced level of overall waste that may otherwise need to be disposed in the future.

Each BlueScope business unit was encouraged to nominate for the award by submitting an environmental engagement or improvement activity undertaken during the year. The nominations received from across BlueScope’s footprint were judged by the way they demonstrated commitment to Our Bond and to BlueScope’s HSEC Policy which states:  “We care for our environment” through:

  • The efficient use of resources;
  • Pollution prevention strategies and mitigation of process disturbances;
  • Reducing the environmental impact of our operations and products; and
  • Community engagement and consultation.

The BlueScope Environment Award was presented to the winning team by Daniel Grollo, Chair of the BlueScope Board’s Health, Safety and Environment Committee.

The process of grinding rolls from Port Kembla Steelworks Hot Strip Mill involves a recirculating water system with an additive that cools and lubricates the grinding wheel, while the water flushes away the metal shavings or debris (also known as swarf).

Previously, the swarf ran via a chute into a clarifier and through a filtration process that used a magnetic drum to separate it. Any swarf not picked up by the magnetic drum and abrasive residue from the grinding wheel was then collected by filter paper. Although the swarf was recycled back into the steelmaking process, the filter media and filter paper which cannot be reused was processed as hazardous waste.  This process was labour intensive and expensive.

In looking for a new system that eliminated the requirement for filter paper, a new roll grinder sediment tank was designed. The design incorporates a steel plate clarifier that eliminates the need for filter paper, thus reducing landfill requirements and disposal costs.