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ArcelorMittal Europe continues to develop its Cr(VI)-free steels for packaging

In February 2024, ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products implemented new equipment on its Florange (France) tinning line, enabling the line to produce chromium-free passivated (CFPA) steels for packaging. This is in addition to existing lines at ArcelorMittal Basse-Indre (France) and ArcelorMittal Avilés (Spain) which are already equipped with CFPA equipment. Together these facilities can produce around 300,000 tonnes of CFPA packaging steels annually. Many packaging steel customers are already trialling the CFPA material – and some have switched completely. To encourage customers to make the switch, ArcelorMittal Europe will limit its offer of material passivated with Cr(VI) from 2025 onwards.

The use of chromium-6 (Cr(VI)) is prohibited by the European Commission as part of its REACH regulation. Originally the deadline for the phase-out of Cr(VI) used to passivate tinplate was set for 2024. In April 2024, ArcelorMittal Europe was granted an authorisation for this use, extending the deadline to the end of 2027. Eric Brasseur, REACH and Chemical Policy Manager for ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products explains: “We are very pleased that the European Commission granted our packaging steel plants the necessary REACH Authorisations to extend the deadline. This will give our customers the time they need to conclude their validation tests and ramp-up use of alternatives such as CFPA.”

Eliminating Cr(VI) from the passivation process removes the risk to ArcelorMittal workers who could be exposed to the carcinogenic chemical during production. It also ensures that the chemical will not be emitted into the environment where it could do significant damage.

“ArcelorMittal Europe has an enviable reputation when it comes to the use of hazardous chemicals such as Cr(VI),” notes Eric Brasseur. “In its assessment, the European Chemical Agency Risk Assessment Committee and the European Commission concluded that ArcelorMittal’s risk management measures and operating conditions on our lines are appropriate and effective in limiting the risk to human health, within and around our plants. Nevertheless, the slightest risk of exposure to Cr(VI) matters. Out of a sense of responsibility towards the health of our workers and the environment, ArcelorMittal is calling on all partners in the electrolytic chromium coated steel (ECCS) and electro-tinplating (ETP) value chains to phase-out the use of Cr(VI) material well before the deadline.”

With the commissioning of the new CFPA line in Florange, ArcelorMittal Europe has enough capacity to supply its packaging steel customers with Cr(VI)-free material today. Some customers are already making the switch such as Metalscatola in Italy. “Our business is focused on the manufacture of cans for general line products,” notes Silvia Marsetti, CEO of Metalscatola. “We are producing a range of products including welded body cans with the CFPA material. Lithography and lacquer tests on these products have been successfully completed. To date no major changes have been needed in our processes or equipment to accommodate the new material.”

The CFPA passivation process is very different to the conventional method. To help train the production teams and fine-tune the production process, ArcelorMittal is encouraging all packaging steel customers to move to CFPA material soon. “Despite the extension of the REACH deadline to the end of 2027, it is critical that we ramp-up the volume of CFPA we are producing,” says Richard Leze, Packaging CMO for ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products. “To encourage this, we have decided to limit our offer of Cr(VI) passivated material from 2025 onwards. In 2025 we will offer 30-percent of our tinplate production in CFPA. The share will increase in 2026 with the aim of reaching 100-percent of production in 2027. From 1 January 2028, the use of chemicals based on Cr(VI) for tinplate passivation (and a year later for ECCS production) will no longer be allowed in Europe. It is critical that the entire supply chain acts now to ensure they are ready and experienced by the end of December 2027.”

Line 2 at the ArcelorMittal Basse-Indre site, designed for both tin plate and ECCS production. The photo displays the process from right to left: degreasing, pickling, chrome plating and further on, tin plating. The line can switch between tin plating and chrome plating by bypassing one of the sections. [Copyright ArcelorMittal]

Typical CFPA implementation: this schema shows the typical various elements necessary for CFPA implementation, illustrated here within our Florange tinning line. It replaces the usual electrolytic cell applying Cr(VI). The tinplate strip is symbolized by the red line and runs from right to left.

The old chromic passivation section, still visible on the picture, remains in place during the gradual ramp up of the CFPA production. [Copyright ArcelorMittal].

About Metalscatola

Based in the north of Italy, Metalscatola produces metal packaging for industrial products which range in capacity from 0.125 ml to 100 litres. The packaging is used for paints, chemicals, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, and non-sterilised food. Metalscatola’s plants in Telgate and Cividino are highly automated and contain the latest automated testing systems to ensure quality and consistency.

More info: 

Richard Leze, Packaging CMO for ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products [Copyright ArcelorMittal Europe]

Eric Brasseur, REACH and Chemical Policy Manager for ArcelorMittal Europe – Flat Products [Copyright ArcelorMittal Europe]

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