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Bhilai Steel Plant moves towards sustainable practices

Bhilai Steel Plant moves towards sustainable practices
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First Published: Tue, Dec 16 2008. 10 35 PM IST

Eco-friendly: The Bhilai Steel Plant meets 80% of its fuel needs from coke oven gas to reduce emissions. Taneesha Kulshrestha / Mint
Eco-friendly: The Bhilai Steel Plant meets 80% of its fuel needs from coke oven gas to reduce emissions. Taneesha Kulshrestha / Mint
Updated: Tue, Dec 16 2008. 10 35 PM IST
New Delhi: Over the past three years, engineers at Steel Authority of India Ltd had been silently working to reverse a trend.
Their plant in Bhilai, about 40km from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, had been running on a fuel that comprised 80% coal and 20% coke oven gas.
The plant ate up the fossil fuel while adding significantly to carbon dioxide emissions.
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Now the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) has managed to reverse the ratio—80% gas and 20% coal power the plant, which is India’s sole producer of rails and heavy steel plates.
The move from emissions to sustainability and energy efficiency helped BSP win the CII-ITC Corporate Sustainability Award for 2008 in independent unit category—its third since the awards were instituted in 2006.
“The move has not only helped BSP reduce consumption of coal and utilize waste better but also reduced its cost of operations and checked emissions,” said H.R. Murty, head, department of environment management at BSP.
Eco-friendly: The Bhilai Steel Plant meets 80% of its fuel needs from coke oven gas to reduce emissions. Taneesha Kulshrestha / Mint
The sustainability award aims to promote role models in industry and reward excellence achieved by businesses in mainstreaming sustainability in business practices.
BSP is also contributing to the development of Bhilai, industry analysts said. The plant administers civic amenities, such as sanitation, public health, roads and schools in the steel township spread over 9,103 acres. It runs 48 schools, including eight in the mines, where at least 34,000 students study, says the plant’s website.
BSP has recently undertaken a unique project in the township, said Murty. It is setting up a water treatment plant that will treat 30 million litres of sewage water daily. The treated water will then be reused by the plant.
The steel industry is one of the largest water consumers—production of 1 tonne of steel requires 20 cubic metres of water.
Murty said that while the project will cut BSP’s water consumption, it will also spare more clean water for the residents.
The emphasis on sustainability is part of the core management strategy at BSP, said T.K. Gupta, executive director (finance) at the plant. It helps reduce costs, improves processes and introduces more efficiency, he said. Gupta cites the example of slag management.
Slag is a by-product of metal smelting, hundreds of tonnes of which is produced every year in the process of making steel. Less slag means more steel. If collected well, it also presents a business opportunity.
BSP sold Rs100 crore worth of slag and other wastes to ancillaries last fiscal. It recently tied up with Jaypee Cement Ltd and will now sell granulated slag, a key ingredient of cement, to the cement maker.
BSP has shown a sustained growth in its turnover over the last three years, analysts said. Its revenue for fiscal 2008 stood at Rs16,000 crore with a net profit of Rs5,000 crore. The plant also registered the highest labour productivity of 289 tonnes of steel per man per year.
At 100% capacity utilization, BSP produced 5 million tonnes (mt) of steel last fiscal. It aims to produce 5.8mt this fiscal.
“Such harmonies of production could have only been achieved by employees who are satisfied and happy to work at BSP,” said P.K. Agarwal, the plant’s executive director (personnel and administration). There is a three-tier system in place for grievance management, he said, adding that there has never been a workers’ strike at the plant.
There is a structured safety audit that is carried twice a year to ensure healthy and safe working, said Agarwal. All the facilities at the plant also have the OHSAS 18001 and SA 8000 certifications that are international benchmarks for workplace environment and practices, he said.
“I used to work with the Bokaro Steel Plant earlier but at BSP the work culture is more open and one is allowed to experiment and take ownership,” said an employee requesting anonymity. “I can just walk into an ED’s (executive director) office.”
BSP also provides for subsidized schools and health centres at the township, besides low-cost housing.
BSP’s 900-bed JLN Hospital and Research Centre treats at least 1.2 million patients every year in its out-patient department, according to the plant’s website.
There are facilities available for free even for people from adjoining areas who fall below the poverty line or cannot afford the treatment.
“We cannot be isolated from what is going on around us,” Agarwal said highlighting the plant’s contribution to the social and community development in the area.
The plant has adopted model villages such as the nearby Piparchedi where it constructs roads, provides power and drinking water, health and education facilities, besides running skill development and income generation workshops.
These range from sewing centres to centres that make pickle and papads. Mithlesh, a resident of Piparchedi, and 22 other women now earn an additional Rs30 per day by making incense sticks under the BSP-sponsored self-income-generation scheme.
“We earned money only in the harvest season earlier. The rest of the time we faced starvation. Now we have some money all year round,” she said.
BSP is now working with Piparchedi villagers to obtain a trademark for the incense sticks being made by the village women. “We will be able to sell at a higher price after that,” said Rohini Yadav, who also makes incense sticks.
The BSP has now undertaken a Rs12,000 crore expansion plan. Murty, the head for environment, said Rs750 crore will be used for installing pollution control equipment.
The focus will also be on identifying new business areas. Its aim is to introduce a new product each month.
Gupta points out that it would be impossible to move forward on these plans without ensuring sustainability.
“BSP knows that businesses do not operate like an island. Managing environment and inclusive growth is key to legal compliance as well as BSP’s long-term footprint. Similarly, a motivated workforce is key to our productivity,” he said.
Gupta’s logic seems simple and it seems to work for BSP.
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First Published: Tue, Dec 16 2008. 10 35 PM IST