BUSINESS

Bhilai Steel contributes to safer rail travel

BANGALORE DEC. 4. The Steel Authority of India's integrated steel plant at Bhilai in Chhattisgarh is the world's largest producer of rails. With the addition of secondary refining facilities such as a RH degasser and a ladle furnace in its steel melting shop II, Bhilai is now able to enhance the safety of rail travel by producing rail steel with hydrogen content below one ppm (parts per million), although Railway specification permits hydrogen in liquid steel up to 2.5 ppm.

Dissolved hydrogen in steel is one of the factors contributing to failure of rails in the long run. The RH degasser also reduces the aluminium and silicon oxide inclusions in steel to almost nil. This enhances the fatigue life of the rails.

Expressing its complete satisfaction and confidence on Bhilai rails, the Indian Railways have ordered over 7 lakh tonnes of prime rails for the current fiscal year including 2 lakh tonnes in 26 metre length. The plant's Rail & Structural Mill is now despatching prime UTS 90 rails in 13 and 26 metre lengths at the rate of over 60,000 T of rails every month.

Bhilai has also taken up a project costing Rs. 350 crores to manufacture long rails of 240 metre and 260 metre lengths. Concerns of safety and economy of operations have necessitated rail companies the world over to switch to long rails with very few weld joints. The longer the length of the rail, the lesser the number of welds per km length. The commuter enjoys a safe and bump-less ride and the rail company saves on track life and maintenance. Production of long rails was slated to start in late 2004 but work on the project has been so fast that production may commence four months earlier.

Bhilai has plans for enhancing the rail production facilities with the installation of walking beam furnaces and enhancement of rolled-rail length. Extensive and modern automation and control systems envisaged will further improve productivity and product quality.

Meanwhile, the plant continues to report an excellent financial performance. The sales turnover that was Rs. 6400 crores in the entire last fiscal, has exceeded Rs. 5100 crores in April-November 2003. The net profit of Rs. 737 crores in the first half of the current fiscal exceed last fiscal's total net profit of Rs. 735 crores.

The same story holds for exports. Total export earnings in 2002-03 was Rs. 520 crores, while it is almost the same figure for exports in just the first half of 2003-04. Bhilai. incidentally is SAIL's top export earner.

During April-November 2003, the growth in production of hot metal, crude steel and salable steel has been 17.8 per cent, 15.7 per cent and 18.9 per cent, respectively, over the corresponding period last year.

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