Recently we finished up a complete refractory reline of four forge furnace systems. These particular units were in operation since the 60’s and had been managed between a mix of internal maintenance and external contractors. The equipment needed a complete overhaul to improve performance and reliability of the forge operation.
When we first connected with the customer, we took a tour of the facility and looked at the furnaces in question. One system was completely down, two had visible holes in the refractory to the roof, and one had major cracks in the burner blocks. It was time to get them back up to speed. After the tour, conversation took place about the process, what the customer hoped to achieve, and we took a deep dive into part reheat process and soak times. Recovery time after the forging was crucial to the plant, so we worked hand in hand to design a refractory system to improve each unit’s efficiencies through material selections.
While the materials were on order, we needed to have our combustion team troubleshoot the furnace that was down to see if we could resolve the issue. At this stage, the furnace had been out of commission for 6+months and management planned to just scrap it and move on. Our team got to work tracing wires and testing circuits as the unit was failing to purge at start up. The furnace we were working on was once a dual fuel system, and could be run on fuel oil or natural gas. Because of that, there were many redundancies in the system that caused unnecessary complexities in the control system. It was determined that the failure was due to the redundancies in the wires, and a circuit was landed to the wrong safety switch. A day into the service call, our team had solved the problem and was testing the unit for functionality. The furnace was now back up and running and will be included in the repairs planned for the other units.
As materials began to arrive, we started conversations with the customer on how we were going to approach the project and minimize unproductive time. To provide a safe working environment and allow the operation to continue, our team decided it was best to work second shift. For each furnace our plan was to demo the refractory, assess the damage to the steel structure (if any), make the necessary repairs, and go back in with an all-new burner blocks, lintel, jambs, side walls, roof and a hearth.
Upon tear out of the refractory, all went according to plan, but the steel work required repairs so we could properly install the new refractory. At this point to minimize the amount of odd cuts and welds, the team stripped a few feet of sidewall and welded in all new walls and junior I-beams for the roof. From here, we were able to get to work installing the new refractory.
We started first on the sub flooring, followed by the roof, side walls, lintel, then poured the hearth. From here we were able to finish the inside, ram the jambs, and get to work on relining the new doors fabricated for the furnaces.
A week and a half later, the units were completed and the customer started on the dry out schedule that was created uniquely for the installed refractory materials. The last step in the project was the coaching and education led by our combustion team, on the do’s and dont’s of furnace operation. After making the investment in the units, we assisted the customer in making sure they knew the proper way to care for and maintain the systems moving forward.
One thing that the customer valued that ultimately led to our successful selection to do the work was the fact that we offered construction, controls, combustion, and refractory services all in house. We were able to walk with the customer hand in hand through the process to ultimately provide a product and service that will improve efficiency in their operation for many years to come.