The SSAB blast furnace maintenance project was completed on schedule, thanks to meticulous advance planning


Elcoline was one of the main contractors participating in SSAB’s blast furnace 1 periodic maintenance project at the company’s steel mill in Raahe, Finland. The installation contract consisted of a partial sheath replacement for the furnace including the required plumbing jobs on the cooling system. There were demanding jobs to do during the disassembly and installation phases. The project’s successful implementation was based on advance planning, work safety and the work of a professionally competent team.

A steel mill’s soul and heart is the blast furnace whose functional capacity must be verified by means of an overhaul project at an interval of 10–12 years. In periodic maintenance, any worn-out sections of the blast furnace sheath are to be replaced, including the required cooling system components, and the fireproof furnace linings, among others. SSAB wanted to use a project implementer with previous experience of heavy industry repair and maintenance projects, as well as the capacity to conduct extensive projects without compromising on quality.

– Periodic maintenance is always extremely important for us since everything at a steel mill starts from the blast furnace. It was crucial to keep everything on schedule as any extended production break immediately affects the final production volume at our Raahe Steel Mill, says SSAB project manager Jarmo Naula.

Appropriate advance planning is the key to successful project implementation, and their investment focused on it. In addition to planning the various work phases, resources and the schedule, for example, preparatory work was done on the blast furnace surroundings, and on the equipment installed in the prefabricated blocks, in early 2019. Preparatory work and equipping the components for installation were essential matters, so as to enable the safe and timely installation of the components weighing some 20 tonnes.

– We were highly satisfied with Elcoline’s capacity to plan the various work phases in a fashion that allowed us to work smoothly to schedule throughout the actual maintenance shutdown. We had total control of everything at all times, and any encountered challenges could be resolved without delay. In view of the end result, I think a good worksite atmosphere is the key factor. There were no problems in communication, and the morning site meetings promoted openness and cooperation. This allowed us to focus on essential matters.

Never compromise on work safety 

Work safety is of primary importance in SSAB’s business, due to the fact that a steel mill is an extremely exacting work environment: there are numerous installation jobs carried out from scaffolding, the risk of burns or falling items, and tasks to be done with the process partly in operation. You simply cannot compromise on work safety issues.

– Elcoline’s work safety competence is of a very high standard, and their processes function in practice, not only on paper. Elcoline has familiarised itself with work safety matters on a versatile basis, and they had also chartered the project’s potential risks carefully in advance. The work methods and safety instructions were reviewed accurately and the safety procedures monitored and reported as required.

SSAB was also satisfied with Elcoline’s work in other respects during the project.

– The project management team had everything under control. They had good supervisors and a competent team of mechanics. It was easy to see that they had invested appropriately in the required project resources.

At the forefront resolving industrial challenges

Jarmo Naula has been collaborating with Elcoline for a long period, and his view of the company’s competence is based on experience. As he sees it, Elcoline is a continuously developing partner with the capacity for regeneration.

– In my view, Elcoline is a spearhead company in the field. They want to be among the very first to rise to current challenges, and the solutions they offer are of a new type. Their design includes 3D technology, for example, which means that the installation images are available in various forms, not only on paper. I also regard their personnel composition as a suitable combination of acquired experience and young expertise. In a team of experts from various fields, professional competence can be exploited with maximum effect and all members have a chance for personal development.

Project: SSAB Raahe, Finland, Periodic Maintenance on Blast Furnace #1
Planning and implementation: Q1-Q2 2019
Advance planning: work phases, resources, logistics, schedule, and any preparatory installation jobs
Maintenance shutdown: work management, measurements, installation and welding jobs
Number of Elcoline personnel on the project: approximately 80 employees