YAMOUSSOUKRO, Cote d’ivoire – Steel is one of the most widely used metals due to its low cost and beneficial properties; their consumption has become an indicator of a country’s economic development. Globalization of trade and the advancement of steelmaking technologies have resulted in significant changes in raw material quality over the last half century, necessitating improvements in processing technologies.
By Henry Korgboi Weefar, PhD Candidate, Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Yamoussoukro, Cote d’ivoire
Steel‘s demand in the construction industry has driven its transformation to various technologies in order to meet standard application requirements. Additionally, steel rods with various diameters have been recommended for use in strengthening our concrete, which has been in use up until this point. Standards and cost are very fundamental to steel production; the provision of quality steel at a lower or more affordable cost is essential to its end users for optimum performance in construction.
Liberia only has one steelmaking facility, which is owned by Indians, unlike other countries. On July 23, 2019, the President of the Republic of Liberia dedicated the sizable steel factory that Sethi Ferro Fabrik Inc. had built and is now the owner of.
Sethi Ferro Fabrik Incorporated, the oldest Indian investment in Liberia, has helped the country’s struggling economy a little bit by investing millions of dollars to build the country’s first massive steel manufacturing facilities, which have generated a lot of employment opportunities.
The primary factor contributing to the downturn in the construction industry is the country’s lone steel manufacturing facility. Prior to the construction of this facility, Liberia’s construction industry was heavily dependent on imports of steel. By that time, we can rationally admit what is causing the high cost. Unlike now, 10 mm and 16 mm of A-grade steel are currently priced at $8.50 USD and $28 USD, respectively. The economic scenario of competition would interact if there were multiple steel manufacturing facilities, which could potentially reduce the cost of steel on the Liberian market.
We have Arcelor Mittal operating in Liberia as phase two of its expansion project, but sourcing raw materials remains a significant challenge. Arcelor Mittal has officially announced the 15 million metric tons per year (MT) expansion of the Liberia iron ore mine in September 2021. The 15 million metric ton expansion of the Liberian iron ore mine was supposed to supply the only steel factory in the nation with iron ore, but this expectation has not been met.
The majority of steel products produced today contain steel scrap that has been completely recycled and melted in an induction furnace. In addition to having a significant advantage, steel produced from scrap has the same properties as steel produced using iron ore. Scrap is better for the environment. Recycling scrap results in less waste. In place of iron ore, scrap now makes up 80–98% of the facility’s primary raw materials. Prior to this year, when the relationship between the two essential raw materials for steel production broke down, scrap’s price had been relatively closely tied to that of iron ore. It implies that the use of scrap in the steel manufacturing sector (Sethi Ferro Fabrik Inc.) is driven more by availability than by cost. For the continuous availability of iron ore as a substitute for scraps, the national government must strategically ensure a partnership between Arcelor Mittal and Sethi Ferro Fabrik Inc.
Subpar (lack of commitment to high standards) underlies almost all the problems faced by the steel market, especially strength optimization. Importantly, the use of chemicals such as micro-alloys (Niobium and vanadium) is expensive, and there are potential supply risks that may limit their use to increase the strength of steel. Because they make grain size refinement and precipitation hardening easier, they are primarily used to optimize strength.
The absence of monitoring authorities to guarantee that these standards are met is a major obstacle. A sample of sizes 10mm and 16mm had failed some measurable parameters under the mechanical properties testing standards as required by both BS 8110 and BS 4449 at the beginning of this year 2023. The nominal diameter average for the 10mm sample was 9.2mm, and the worst result was the nominal diameter average for the 16mm sample, which was 14.65mm. However, the values of these strength characteristics were above the design strengths for high yield steel (250 N/mm2) and mild steel.
To lessen some of these factors or challenges that are affecting steels used for construction on the Liberian market, the national government must collaborate with stakeholders like Arcelor Mittal and Sethi Ferro Fabrik Inc. The government shouldn’t be reluctant to advocate for or develop regulations that could increase investment in the steel industry, fostering the development of more steel-related businesses in Liberia. Increase investment in the steel industry, allowing the establishment of more steel industries, which will subsequently increase competition. The greatest attraction in the shortest amount of time may lead to competition and lower costs.
Second, establishing a solid business partnership between Arcelor Mittal and Sethi Ferro Fabrik for the supply of iron ore, a key component of steel, is crucial for assisting in cost-cutting. Sethi Ferro Fabrik Inc. currently only uses scrap, which may be because it is more readily available and environmentally friendly. From this vantage point, the availability of the two raw materials in a sufficient quantity has the potential to lower costs, making them more affordable at maximum production.
With engineering materials like steel in particular, standards are met to guarantee the best performance and safety. Steel is used because it adheres well to concrete, has a similar coefficient of thermal expansion, is stronger, and is generally cheaper than other materials. The main building material in use today is reinforced concrete, which is also used to create deep foundations and basements. Additionally, even though concrete facilitates more compressive load than steel rod, steel absorbs both tensile and compressive loading to some extent. The steel created for such performance must adhere to standards in order to have these distinct qualities or traits.
Monitoring policies, specifically government organizations charged with making sure these standards are met, is common; for instance, the ministry of trade, commerce, and industry has an inspectorate unit tasked with making sure standards of goods are in line with manufacturing specifications for product design. This process ensures the development of goods, parts, or components that are straightforward to produce in order to produce them more affordably and with higher quality. This is accomplished by streamlining, improving, and perfecting the product design. Basic mechanical properties must be tested for steel in relation to its application to ensure they are suitable.
End users of steel construction products in Liberia do not benefit from the presence of regulatory bodies that ensure manufacturers adhere to safety and standard requirements.
To sum up, the cost of steel is still very high, and it’s important to note that poor manufacturing practices (such as a lack of safety considerations and the absence of government-representative design engineers) lead to subpar products that are either impossible to validate or of low standard.
Despite Sethi Ferro Fabrik Inc.’s contribution to our economy, there is still room for improvement in terms of steel production and standards so that it can compete with other steels on a wider market. In the future, we intend to share with you the fundamental findings of ongoing investigations into the steel‘s strength and investigate potential areas for optimization.