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| 1 minute read

Sheffield's speedy welding to help UK's energy transition

Sheffield has been nicknamed the “Steel City” due to its longstanding reputation for innovation in the steel industry, starting with Benjamin Huntsman's clay pot crucibles and followed by Henry Bessemer's eponymous process for manufacturing cheap steel by blowing air through molten pig iron to remove impurities.  This tradition has continued and Sheffield Forgemasters, which specialises in producing the largest and most difficult steel components in the world, has announced an exciting landmark in welding. 

Typically welding involves melting two materials together and allowing them to cool to form a strong bond.  There are many different types of welding. such as friction welding in which the two materials are welded using heat generated via friction or arc welding in which a powerful current is used to melt the materials.  Sheffield Forgemasters has used a method called Electron Beam Welding, which, as the name suggests, utilises a beam of electrons to penetrate the materials being welded much more deeply that can be achieved by other techniques.  This has allowed them to complete a weld between two pieces of 200 mm thick, three metre diameter vessel sections comprising SMR nuclear grade steel in only 140 minutes, which would previously have taken months to achieve.

This is extremely exciting for the nascent UK SMR industry and will serve to drastically reduce the time taken to produce thick section welds and will also vastly reduce the cost.   This technology and know how will be extremely valuable in the next few years as the long-lambasted nuclear industry is finally recognised as a key part of the energy transition around the world.  The cap-ex for nuclear is very high and so any technology which can provide equal or superior results in much less time and much lower cost is to be welcomed.  

This landmark in welding demonstrates Sheffield's continued importance to the worldwide steel and energy industries.  Sheffield is looking to become somewhat of an energy transition powerhouse with Sheffield Forgemasters forging ahead with new welding techniques and the Translational Energy Research Centre investigating other forms of energy, such as hydrogen or SAF.  


Completed in 140 minutes, with no reportable defects shown in preliminary non-destructive testing (NDT), offering a radical breakthrough in welding technology. A weld of this kind would typically take months and include numerous stages of NDT as well as heat-treatment.


Sustainability, chemistry, climate change, energy & environment, mechanical engineering, patents, yes