Eco-metallurgy in Italy and India

The challenge of cooperation on environmental and sustainable technologies in the metallurgical productions of aluminium and steel. A meeting with Mario Bodini, CEO, Sideridraulic

by Alberto Cavicchiolo

Sideridraulic has been a pioneer in metal development, with its innovative products in the hydraulic automation and water purification sectors. It takes its place alongside Danieli, which accompanied the company’s growth in steel, as well as other groups like Lucchini, Techint, Tenaris, ThyssenKrupp and many others around the world.
We met Mario Bodini, CEO, Sideridraulic, and exchanged views regarding their specific activity and their experience as regards the industrial relationship between our country and India.

What do you think of the cooperation between Italy and India in the field of air and water purification in the metallurgy sector?
We are talking about a fundamental sector for the development of both countries, the first in its role as an integrator of technologies, the other as a receiver of these technologies and as a country with a large user base. Possible synergies are evident.

How much is the Italian and Indian steel market worth compared to aluminium?
In Italy, almost 25 million tons of steel in 2017 is a significant result. If we increase that soon, thanks to an agreement with the Indian group Arcelor Mittal, we will be able to add ILVA’s production, a plant that is currently far below its standard. Thanks to another large Indian group, JWS of the Jindal family, Italy will be able to increase the capacity of the Piombino plant, formerly Lucchini, one of Europe’s largest producers of rail tracks.
Given this datum, we had an aluminium production of about 2.1 ML t in 2017. Moreover, in India steel production reached 100 ML t compared to a primary aluminium production of 5 ML t.

What do you think of the world’s steel market?
In the 2017-2018 fiscal year the European steel market showed a growth of 4.1% reaching 168.7 million tons. India is growing fast, last year it totalled more than 100 million tons, with a 6.2%increase. Among other large countries I would also like to mention the United States, with 81.6 million tons (+4.1%), Russia with 71.3 million tons and South Korea (71.1 million tons).

What do you think about the aluminium market in India?
In India there is still room for a huge growth in the downstream uses of aluminium and its alloys as compared to other countries. It produces primary metal but it is not yet sufficiently structured to have an adequate internal production and consumption as regards semis such as extrusions, rolled products and foundry castings. An adequate domestic demand is still lacking on the part of the transportation, packaging, building and electrotechnical industries, the segments which typically use a lot of light metal.
It is very important to talk about aluminium in India if we consider its natural reserves. India has 593 million tons of bauxite reserves and is naturally endowed with large deposits of gibbsitic bauxite. According to the Indian Bureau of Mines, there are a reported 152 mines, of which 134 operate in the private sector and 18 mines in the public sector.

In your opinion will there be a growing need for air and water purification in both the Indian aluminium and steel sectors?
Italy is one of the great conglomerates of world metallurgy. Our experience in ferrous and non-ferrous metals is unique in the world. In the near future we will see a growing refinement of environmental safety criteria in metallurgy. The comparison will be made with the emerging countries that care the most about job security like India, South East Asia, Taiwan, South Africa, and also the relaunch of Russia and the whole of North America. We would also like to point out the importance of Mexico, where Sideridraulic has just acquired a very important contract. The European standards are the most rigorous and selective and will have the effect of becoming the benchmark for plant control in various countries.

What are the special features of water purification for the non-ferrous sector?
In the non-ferrous sector, mainly in aluminium, economic savings can occur. Of course the reduction of CO2 emissions is also an important area of expertise, therefore in terms of this we have the Italian experience in filtering. For example, some filters in the aluminium downstream sector will be increasingly replaceable, washable. You will be able to recover the lubricant, which can then be reintroduced. This means that the mechanical and electronic parts will last longer, favouring a constant evacuation of the pollutant. In addition, the total absence of vibrations attributable to the installed air purification system guarantees the precision of the parts produced.

How did Sideridraulic develop as a company over time?
Until the end of the 1990s Sideridraulic continued working in the hydraulic sector, becoming the main partner of all of the major steel-plant builders. Then we acquired Ekoplant, a company specializing in the purification of fumes and air. The hydraulic sector still makes up about 30% of our turnover. We are working with plant designers, and hydraulics have a major effect on the performance of equipment in every rolling mill, extrusion press, or continuous casting facility, so there is still a substantial market for us. We operate in a complex and very competitive market with enormous growth opportunities.

Can we take a moment to discuss the topic of training, especially knowledge transfer as it relates to plants established in places like India? How does Sideridraulic approach training?
Just this year In India we hired 4 new operators and 5 new technicians (including engineers). Often we call in our recently retired personnel to do the training so that current workers do not lose time in training and the new workers can benefit from the extensive experience of these ex-employees. We are also connected with Technical Institutes and Universities in Brescia and Milan. Particularly in Brescia the labour market is very competitive and dynamic. The University and other institutions on the territory work in close contact with companies, there is a strong creation of knowledge and companies like ours are always ready to seize the best talent.