Energy costs presenting challenges to European foundries and other countries reliant on Putin’s game that he is playing

The challenges for the modern foundry are diverse with castings becoming more complex, requiring improved surface finish and increased yield to drive down costs. In addition to this there is increased pressure and expectation to reduce environmental footprint, decrease carbon dioxide emissions and become more energy efficient.

The auto industry’s drive to a greener and cleaner future is a treacherous road for companies in its beleaguered supply chain. Only the strong and the shrewd may survive, says Automotive News Europe.

Many auto suppliers, already squeezed by rampant inflation and energy prices, say they have little choice but to shoulder the extra costs of making their components sustainable to meet automakers’ environmental targets.

However, in Europe there is a more sinister event brewing. Putin’s disturbing invasion of Ukraine and the knock-on effects of it is the exploding procurement costs of electricity and gas that will require new solutions for foundries.

At the recent Future Day conference held in Düsseldorf and hosted by The German Federal Association of the Foundry (BDG) Industry it was noted that the future can only work if the industry survives the present, which is currently threatening its existence.

“With energy costs currently exploding, it is more important than ever for foundries to reduce their energy consumption in order to ensure their competitiveness. The war in Ukraine has led to a drastic increase in energy costs. Compared to the previous year, electricity prices have almost tripled, and gas prices have more than doubled. Energy-intensive industries, such as the foundry industry, are particularly affected by this price jump,” it was reported on Foseco’s LinkedIn page after the conference.

“While the industry has long contributed to sustainability in some areas, especially by recycling scrap iron, steel and aluminium, there is still plenty of room for improvement in other areas, such as energy efficiency. Therefore, technologies and solutions that reduce energy consumption are becoming increasingly important. The good news is that today there are ways to achieve this through the use of modern foundry auxiliaries.”

“Melting accounts for 30% of a foundry’s energy consumption. Improving the efficiency of this process is therefore a key concern. Energy consumption can be reduced, for example, by using insulating lining systems, which reduce heat losses and preheating times.”

“In the aluminium sector, experience has shown that dry lining of dosing furnaces saves up to 18% of energy compared to lining with monolithic lining systems. The energy-intensive drying and sintering of the newly installed lining is reduced to a minimum. The use of highly insulating materials in furnaces and ladles ensures that the energy required to melt or keep aluminium warm is reduced.”

“We need an energy price cap – now,” appealed BDG CEO Max Schumacher.

“It’s less important who works the best than the price dictates. Our customers are international customers. You can only partially explain to a Mexican CEO what is going on here in Germany,” said Prof. Martin Fehlbier of the University of Kassel.

However, subsequent to the conference it remained far from clear who might be responsible for any sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines that Russia and European partners spent billions of dollars building. As gas spewed out under the Baltic Sea the European Union on Wednesday promised a “robust” response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure after saying it suspected sabotage was behind gas leaks discovered on subsea Russian pipelines to Europe and this is after Russia slashed gas deliveries to Europe.

This is more sinister and the West should be doing more than just imposing sanctions.