Intellectual Theft

I was talking with a colleague / customer recently who told me about a bad situation with one of their vendors. They made a purchase from the vendor and installed and commissioned the equipment. They (the customer) had an idea that they thought may enhance EAF performance by utilizing the equipment in a way that the vendor had not anticipated. He noted that they asked the vendor about it and left it at that. They found out later that the vendor patented the idea. Considering that the backlog at the USPTO is about a year, the vendor must have fast-tracked it.

Things like this bother me. At a minimum this is very un-ethical. If I were the customer I would try to not do business with this vendor in the future. Unfortunately this customer has no choice at this point.

EAF Energy Consumption

The typical US home has a 200A service which means that it can consume as much as approximately 240V * 200A = 28.8KW. However, the circuits are typically laid out with a 20% safety margin which results in 0.8 * 28.8KW = 23KW. This is a maximum used for comparison. The true value oscillates throughout the days and weeks.

It’s tough to say exactly what the “average” EAF power input is because there’s a large variance today. Without going through hundreds of log files, I would informally estimate that the average EAF input in the USA is approximately 70MW.

Using these two numbers we can estimate that an “average” EAF consumes approximately the equivalent energy of 70,000 / 23 = 3043 US homes. These are back of the envelope estimates and do not account for load fluctuations, utilization factors, etc. So very approximately, an average EAF consumes as much energy as 3000 average US homes.

SVC Control

I assisted with an SVC commissioning last week. The SVC was installed primarily for flicker mitigation, but also for power factor control. The commissioning Engineers were focused on these goals, not EAF performance.

SVCs always improve EAF performance and efficiency. On startup, the SVC reduced flicker and controlled power factor well, but I knew something was wrong when there was no improvement in EAF performance. After modeling and analysis of the power system using the ArcView software I was able to show the commissioning Engineers the issue. There was not enough capacitive VARs in steady state to stabilize the medium voltage. Voltage sag coupled with pure impedance regulation was resulting in reduced arc power.

After making some adjustments to the SVC control, the improvement in EAF performance was incredible.

Best Of 2015

Despite the bad condition of the global steel industry (excluding China) and the very bad condition of electrode companies, 2015 was a decent year for me. I started thinking about a “best of” list for some reason and so put it together for the things that came to mind right away.

Best New Tech: Evernote
I know that it has been around for several years, but I didn’t start using it consistently until a few months ago. Evernote has made it much easier for me to stay organized. Dump everything into it and forget about it for a few weeks and see how easy it is to find it later. I like it so much that I upgraded to premium ($50 / yr) even though I didn’t need the features. I just wanted to support the company.

Best New Steel Tech: My colleague Dirk Riedinger from BSE gave a paper at the METEC conference. The presentation was titled “a new dimension of designing arc furnace high current systems” and detailed research he and his team have conducted into EAF secondary magnetic induction. I felt like I was the only person in the room that understood the potential of this technology. This is a big deal and I expect very good things to come from this.

Best Travel Trip: Berlin
I was stationed in Germany for 3 years in the USAF but never had the opportunity to visit Berlin. I finally made it there for a few rainy days over the summer. It is an awesome city and I would really like to spend a lot more time there.

Best Book: Capital in the 21rst Century
This was the summer book to read in 2014, but I didn’t get around to reading it until 2015. It’s an excellent book and I can highly recommend it.

Best Movie: Lone Survivor
I read the book and watched the movie. I don’t like reading/hearing about US servicemen/women becoming casualties. I’m glad that the military allowed Mr Luttrell to tell his story. Hopefully the military learned from this and incidents like this don’t happen again.

Best TV Series: The Americans
Season 3 aired in 2015 on FX. It just keeps getting better. Season 4 starts in March.

Best Music: Mastodon Leviathon
This was released in 2004 but I bought it this year and was blown away. This was a really tough choice between this and Dream Theater’s Metropolis Pt 2 which I also bought this year and was blown away by.

Best Meal: Tacos at Taqueria El Paisa
This is a small taqueria in Celaya Mexico. A colleague took us there for a late quick supper. The tacos were outstanding, and cheap.

Best Fitness Lesson: Be careful with protein
This year I learned that certain proteins such as whey and amino acid supplements can cause spikes in insulin levels. This is similar to the response from high glycemic carbohydrates and results in fat storage. I started losing weight (fat) as soon as I reduced my whey intake to <25g / day and eliminated amino acid supplements.