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Planning for a Breakout is Now Part of the Plan

Nov. 1, 2018
New EJ foundry will include four emergency collection pits, to ensure molten iron and water are kept in their proper places.

You might suppose that a metalcasting project budgeted at $125 million would have included every necessary element of process technology and equipment, but the planners of
EJ Americas’ new iron foundry in Warren Township, MI, learned something in the design process — and have included something new in their plan: an emergency collection pit (ECP) to separate molten metal from any water present, eliminating the possibility of a steam explosion during a breakout or emergency tapping. The combination of molten metal and moisture can be catastrophic, and even deadly, as almost every foundry operator knows.

The new foundry EJ is building on a nearly 200-acre site is scheduled to start up soon. Long known as East Jordan Iron Works, EJ renamed its organization in 2011, establishing a global brand for products it manufactures at foundries in Australia, Canada, France, and Ireland. It has a second U.S. plant in Ardmore, OK. The East Jordan, MI, foundry has been operating for 133 years, casting iron parts for agricultural, forestry, marine and railroad equipment, though now its focus is supplying castings for water, sewer, and drainage systems, and telecom and utility networks.

The designer of the ECP for EJ’s new plant is Silmeta Systems, which has been developing such systems for almost three decades and patented a “Foamceramic” specifically for these applications. It has over 500 installations worldwide — iron foundries, nonferrous foundries, and aluminum foundries, with a range of furnace types. These operations have endured 180 furnace breakouts with no resulting injuries or property damage.

Silmeta’s North American partner for ECP projects is Allied Mineral Products. Each ECP (or emergency run-out pit, ROP) is custom-engineered to the furnace it serves, and sized in order to contain 120% of the maximum melt.

Positioned below grade adjacent to the furnace to receive the melt contents, the ECP is lined with precast refractory and the Foamceramic material, and it is fitted with removable metal collection chambers. The entire installation is empaneled by a ventilation channel. When the molten metal runs out and collects in the ECP, any water present will escape through the Foamceramic—including in the run-out zone immediately beneath the furnace—which sinters properly to contain the melt and isolate the water in the drainage system. Water may escape through the walls of each collection chamber as well as through the floor.

The collection chambers have crane hooks built into them, so removing cooled metal is a routine effort.

After a breakout occurs, any damage to the installation can be repaired and the entire arrangement may be reinstalled in a matter of days, according to the developer.

Installations are customized, as noted, and Silmeta Systems estimated that installing an ECP in a small, new foundry would be a “low five-figures” project, while a large-foundry ECP would be a “low six-figure” investment. Retrofit projects are possible, too.

Silmeta Systems and Allied Mineral Products installed four, 166-ft3 emergency collection pits with 64 ft3 breakout inlets at the new EJ iron foundry last summer.  Allied Mineral is the contact point for U.S. metalcasters interested in a Silmeta ECP installation: it offers technical support and project management, in addition to producing the castable materials. Silmeta provides the proprietary materials, technical supervision, and quality control for the projects.