14 October 2022
Corporate News

Lasers analyse slab heating furnaces molecule by molecule


The two slab re-heating furnaces at Tata Steel’s Hot Rolling Mill in Port Talbot are the first digitally fired furnaces in the world to use an innovative laser technology, which will improve product quality and consistency while further cutting the site’s energy use and carbon footprint.

This ground-breaking work was the brainchild of Tata Steel Process Technologist, Jonathan Richards, who worked with a market leading technology company, OnPoint Digital Solutions, LLC, a Koch Engineered Solutions company to perfect the energy-efficient solution.

Jon explained: “Heating slabs to the correct temperature is critical to ensure the metallurgical properties match the requirement of our customers. Not only that, but with a system that allows us to monitor and control our use of gases more accurately, we can save energy, save costs and reduce our carbon footprint.

“We’ve installed laser sensors, which measure—at a molecular level—the combustion products and the temperature profile of the furnace to produce live visual data. 

“As beams of light pass through the furnace atmosphere, carbon monoxide, water vapour and oxygen absorb the light. It is this light loss that indicates the volume of each constituent molecule. From the percentage of each molecule, we can infer the combustion efficiency of the furnace.”

Jon continued: “If there is too much air, the furnace will cool leading to increased gas consumption as the furnace fires harder to achieve the right temperatures. Excess air also increases yield losses though oxidation.

“Excess fuel levels lead to incomplete combustion, producing high levels of carbon monoxide and the unburned fuel is wasted.”

The new technology can help narrow down issues to any of the 56 burners in each furnace; accurate burner performance will lead to more efficient planning ahead of maintenance stops, cleaning, and calibrations.

David Brinkmann, Service Manager and Engineer from OnPoint added: “It has been a great opportunity to work with Tata Steel on this project, as we know the benefits that companies can get from our ZoloSCANTM laser technology. More and more we are seeing the huge advantages of such collaborations in high-tech industries such as steel.”

The next phase of the project is to make the process a closed loop operation with the system detecting anomalies and automatically adjusting the furnace gas flows to ensure optimum energy efficiencies.

Jon said: “This has been a remarkably successful project. Our energy usage has fallen dramatically and this work has helped the business reduce more of its carbon footprint.”




  • The furnaces heat the steel slabs—each weighing around 30 tonnes—up to 1200°C before they are rolled into steel strip. 
  • The furnaces are fuelled by around 60% Natural Gas supplemented with around 40% process gases from the Coke Ovens 
  • Each reheat furnace is 55m long, has 56 gas burners, and holds up to 80 slabs at any one time
  • The Port Talbot site is around 81% energy self-sufficient, using gases from its Blast Furnaces, Steel Plant and Coke Ovens to generate heat and electricity through its on-site power plant 
  • OnPoints ZoloSCAN TM Technology delivers unique laser-based combustion monitoring and diagnostic capabilities for ultra-harsh environments to optimize the yield, efficiency, and safety of combustion applications.
  • Eight laser paths are strategically placed on each furnace to measure the combustion gases zonally above and below the steel slabs as they move through the furnace and heat to the optimal temperature.


For further information: Tim Rutter on +44 (0)7850 990755 or tim.rutter@tatasteeleurope.com

Slab-reheating furnaces at Tata Steel’s Port Talbot site

Multiple zone laser-based combusting monitoring system

About Tata Steel UK

  • The Tata Steel Group has been named one of the most ethical companies in the world, and is among the top producing global steel companies with an annual crude steel capacity of 34 million tonnes. 
  • Tata Steel in the UK has the ambition to produce net-zero steel by 2050 at the latest, and to have reduced 30% of its CO2 emissions by 2030. 
  • Tata Steel is the largest steelmaker in the UK with primary steelmaking at Port Talbot in South Wales supporting manufacturing and distribution operations at sites across Wales, England and Northern Ireland as well as Norway, Sweden, France and Germany. It also benefits from a network of international sales offices around the world.
  • Tata Steel employs more than 8,000 people and has an annual crude steel capacity of 5 million tonnes, supplying high-quality steel products to demanding markets, including construction and infrastructure, automotive, packaging and engineering. 
  • Tata Steel Group is one of the world's most geographically-diversified steel producers, with operations and a commercial presence across the world. 
  • The Group recorded a consolidated turnover of US $32.83 Bn in the financial year ending March 31, 2022.


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