~By MADHUMITA MOOKERJI

With the easing of travel bans, commissioning experts from the SMS Group of Germany have started arriving at the Forged Wheel Plant (FWP) of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), located in Lalganj, Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh. The plant has seen several deferments of its commissioning date over the last few years but finally February, 2021 seems to be the month by which finished products will start rolling out, it is learnt. Thanks to the pandemic-induced travel bans, the engineers were unable to arrive from Germany and the plant could not be started in December, 2020, as had been implied by a senior official of the company a few months back. The plant is being set up at an investment of around INR 1,683 crore.

Sources inform that all the construction activities, ie, installation and testing of plant and machinery at the site have been completed. Hot trial of the first forged wheel from the forging line has also been successfully completed. “The unit is ready for commissioning and commercial operation is expected to commence within the next few weeks,” a source indicates.

With a capacity to produce 100,000 wheels per annum, and with a provision for expansion up to 200,000 wheels in the future, RINL would be able meet Indian Railways’ (IR’s) growing demand for the same, substituting imports.

So far, Steel Authority of India’s Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) is the only manufacturer of forged wheels in India. IR had a projected requirement of 72,200 wheels in 2017-18, which could touch around 104,500 units by 2020-21 and further to about 156,000 by 2026-27, as per a report.

The project management and consultancy is from Mecon. Design, engineering, manufacture and supply of machineries, and commissioning of the plant is being done by a consortium led by the SMS Group of Germany and its Indian office. The fuel gas (propane/LPG) will be supplied by Indian Oil Corporation Limited.

As per the off-take agreement between RINL & Indian Railways, the former has to set up the plant and supply forged rail wheels to Railways with a total assured quantity of 55,000 units in the first year, 70,000 units in the next year and then 80,000 units per year up to year 2043 or for a further period on renewal of the agreement.

The input material for producing the above wheels, ie, continuous cast rounds (CCRs) of 330-480 mm diameter, is to be sourced from the new caster at the SMS-2 of Vizag Steel Plant (VSP) installed under the phased 7.3 million tonnes

per annum (mtpa) expansion programme.

Jan Liquid Steel Target Flat

RINL has set a liquid steel production target of 5.3 lakh tonnes for January 2021, which is almost flat compared to the 5.22 lakh tonnes achieved in December, 2020. It may be mentioned that the December, 2020 liquid steel output volume was marginally behind the targeted 5.4 lakh tonnes.

Total sales in December, 2020 were at 4.71 lakh tonnes, up almost 13% month-on-month against 4.17 lakh tonnes achieved in November, 2020.

Domestic sales comprised an overwhelming 3.6 lakh tonnes against 1.1 lakh tonnes of export sales. It may be recalled in November, 2020, in the 4.17 lakh tonnes of sales, exports had comprised 1.3 lakh tonnes.

With domestic demand on an upswing, RINL’s inventory has decreased a little further from 1.2 lakh tonnes as on December 31, 2020 from 1.3 lakh tonnes in end-November, 2020.