New buy-back program for recycling high alloy steel

An exciting project has been initiated by Sandvik and strategic business partner Stamicarbon. The project concept is to recycle high alloy steel by offering fertilizer customers a special buy-back solution when replacing equipment at their plants.

When customers in the urea industry replace old equipment at their plants, Sandvik can provide the service to decommission the old equipment and recycle materials. In this win-win model, equipment is replaced without intermediaries and Sandvik and Stamicarbon can buy back the special alloys.

“When piloting this idea, we wanted to find out whether we could extract valuable materials and demolish equipment on-site, in a way that would reward all stakeholders”, says Joey Dobrée, Product Portfolio Manager at Stamicarbon.

Sustainable way of doing business

The buy-back concept also aligns with the Sandvik ambition of reaching 90% in production system circularity. Knowing that the scrap consists entirely of Sandvik premium material will facilitate raw material handling in the steel mill. The partnership is also a perfect match as sustainability is as important for Stamicarbon as it is for Sandvik.

“Stamicarbon wants to support Sandvik in achieving this ambition and help to make the building and operation of urea plants more sustainable. We see this as a valuable addition to our full-lifecycle service, one that will certainly separate us from competitors. We will help our clients by taking the hassle out of the disposal of old equipment, and we can wrap this service into our proposals for replacement equipment, bringing benefits for all parties", Joey says.

Apart from this program, the Sandvik fertilizer team is also proactively reaching out to old customers with an offer to buy back material from urea plants that have been shut down.

​“I believe that we are unique within the fertilizer segment in offering our customers this kind of buy-back program", says Oscar Johansson, Global Product Manager Fertilizer Tubing, Sandvik. “I feel very confident in this way of working and how it builds on a sustainable way of doing business which benefits all involved parties”, Oscar concludes. ​​

Future buy-back of Safurex® material

The project advanced late in 2019 when a first heat exchanger was bought back from a urea plant in the Netherlands. The outcome was very positive, and the buy-back solution will now be included on all new offerings to fertilizer customers when replacing equipment at their plants. Sandvik and Stamicarbon are also exploring standardization of the collection and recycling of high-quality metals for the future.

Coincidentally, the bought back heat exchanger was the very first test installation of Safurex® tubes. “It was a bonus that the heat exchanger was built with those specific tubes. Not only could we try out our new buy-back program, but we were also given the opportunity to evaluate how well our Safurex® material suits the application”, says Oscar.

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Safurex® is the name of the high-alloy duplex stainless steel made to withstand the corrosive environments present in the urea process. The material has been developed in cooperation between Sandvik and Stamicarbon and generation 4 of the material, Safurex® Star*, hit the market in 2018.

“It was fascinating to compare the difference between the tubes used. After careful analysis, we could see that our Safurex® tubes could have lasted another 5 to 10 years, but the tubes made from another material were completely worn out", Oscar reveals. ​

For the time being, the buy-back solution is for Sandvik 2RE69 material (generation 2). In the long term, Safurex® will also be included in the program, but those tubes are not yet ready to be replaced.

Photographs courtesy Stamicarbon.