State-owned Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) Tuesday received its board's approval for eight expansion projects with an investment of Rs.3 billion.

"(The steel major's) board of directors sanctioned the implementation of eight important projects at an investment of around Rs.3 billion," a company statement said.

Out of the eight projects, three have been cleared for Bokaro Steel Plant (BSL), two for Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) and one each for Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) and Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant (VISL), Bhadravati.

These expansion projects are in addition to the capital schemes valued at over Rs.30 billion that are under various stages of implementation.

The projects form a part of the company's growth plan that envisages enhancing hot metal capacity from 13 million tonne (MT) in 2003-04 to 20 MT by 2011-12.

Among key projects that were granted approval Tuesday is "the modification of the Mae-west Block system at BSL's Hot Strip Mill", according to the statement.

The project, likely to improve the consistency in the quality of BSL's hot rolled products, is to be completed in two phases by 2007-08 at a cost of around Rs.920 million.

Another important project for BSL that received in-principle approval included the installation of a hydrochloric acid regeneration plant for Pickling Line II at a cost of around Rs.500 million.

The project, on completion, will improve the pickling process that essentially involves the removal of oxide layers from the surface of cold rolled coils. Besides, this will ensure adequate absorption of HCL fumes, avoiding any pollution in the ambient air.

Installation of power supply facilities for setting up a new oxygen plant at Bokaro on build-own-and-operate (BOO) basis was also given in-principle approval. Simultaneously, VISL has been allowed to set up a cryogenic air separation unit on BOO basis.

The SAIL board has also cleared a proposal for the procurement of two box and rakes under the Wagon Investment Scheme of the Indian Railways for transporting limestone from Jaisalmer to steel plants at a cost of Rs.260 million.

This would enable it to avail of a 10 percent rebate and assured supply of rakes when required.

Two other projects that were given in-principle approval included the implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for Bhilai, valued at Rs.440 million, and the installation of a hot metal desulphurisation unit at RSP's steel melting shop II with an investment of Rs.490 million.