Voestalpine is investing EUR188m (US$217m) to build a new integrated pickling line in the cold rolling mill 3 (BETA 3) at its site in Linz, Austria.

The fully automated pickling line with tandem cold mill will help the manufacture of high and ultra-high strength steels for the automotive, household goods and construction industry, as well as for electrical steel used in e-mobility.

The supplier maintains BETA 3 also sets new sustainability standards: hydrochloric acid takes the place of sulphuric acid for pickling of carbon steel qualities. The required acid is regenerated in a circulatory system using an on-site acid regeneration plant.

Voestalpine has marked the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, with BETA 3 scheduled to start in late 2023. The plant will have an annual production capacity of around 2m tons.

Pickling is a process in the manufacture of cold-rolled steel strip and is an intermediate step between hot and cold rolling. The acid removes mill scale, a dark oxidation layer which forms on the surface of the steel as it cools after hot rolling and impairs the surface quality of the steel strip and later products.

To date, this step was undertaken in pickling plant 1, which has been in operation since 1953. Investment in a new facility will allow all necessary pickling and cold rolling process steps to be integrated into a single facility, shortening the overall processing time and simplifying logistics.

“We are continuously working to extend our technology and innovation,” said voestalpine CEO, Herbert Eibensteiner.

“The investment is an important step towards further strengthening our leading position in our key markets.”

For his part, voestalpine board member and head of the Steel Division, Hubert Zajicek, added: “Investments for the future, such as the new pickling facility in Linz, raise process efficiency, increase product quality and play an important role in meeting our customers’ exacting demands.

“Projects such as this strengthen Linz as a location over the long term.”

Previously, it was necessary to transport the hot strip bundles between pickling line 1 and the cold rolling mill 3. The new investment makes this logistical step redundant.

Furthermore, BETA 3 makes it easier to process ultra-high strength steel strip, wider strip widths and smaller strip thicknesses.

BETA 3 will use hydrochloric acid for pickling, rather than sulphuric acid, in accordance with customer specifications. The acid will be regenerated in a circular system, that is, it will be treated and subsequently reused in the pickling process. A new hydrochloric acid regeneration facility is being constructed at the site for this purpose.

Another measure designed to protect the environment is the construction of a sewer overflow: rainwater will no longer be channelled into the sewer system; instead a new drainage system will be built, directing it underground, that is, returning it to the ecosystem.