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Development of a Low CO2 Iron and Steelmaking Integrated Process Route for a Sustainable European Steel Industry

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LoCO2Fe (Development of a Low CO2 Iron and Steelmaking Integrated Process Route for a Sustainable European Steel Industry)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2018-10-31

Over the past decade, the steel industry in Europe has spent a lot of effort in Research and Development of technologies that help in achieving the EU’s CO2 emissions targets. That has been done through a combination of large scale projects which were part publicly funded in Europe and partly through smaller privately funded research activities.
From the initial stages of feasibility studies, several technologies were put forward for further development, one of which is the HIsarna smelting reduction process.
The objective for the LoCO2Fe project was to prove the capability of the HIsarna ironmaking technology to achieve at least 35% reduction in CO2 emission intensity, compared to blast furnace operated site based on Best Available Technology Currently Installed (BAT). This was achieved through:
• Change operation parameters in order to achieve at least 35% CO2 intensity reduction per tonne of steel through:
o Combined iron ore and scrap operation;
o Partially replacing coal with sustainable biomass;
o Minimising coal rate by maximising energy use in the reactor, through balancing the energy between the different reactor parts;
o Using limestone instead of burnt lime as a fluxing agent;
o Quantifying potential for energy recovery from off-gas;
o Making the process ‘CCS ready’ by having process gas suitable for CCS with little or no processing;
• Operation of the HIsarna pilot plant for more than 1 week continuously in order to establish process and equipment stability;
• Test process conditions and validate for scale up.
Large structural changes were implemented on the HIsarna pilot plant. A new off-gas duct has been installed, a raw materials preparation plant was constructed and an improved dust handling system, incl. a new bag filter plant, was built. As part of these changes improvements to plant and subsystems were implemented in order to improve plant availability and equipment stability. This was tested during the campaign.
The trials with biomass and scrap demonstrated that a CO2 reduction of min. 50% can be achieved with the HIsarna process, without using a Carbon Capture technology.
In addition, the trials replacing the conveying gas with CO2 demonstrated that it was possible to produce a Carbon Capture ready process gas.
These two factors combined show that the HIsarna technology has a major role to play in reducing the C footprint of the steel industry.
The results of the LoCO2Fe project form an important basis for the industrialisation of the HIsarna technology. Engineering for a scale-up is currently ongoing. Besides the operational learnings and improved understanding of process control, key outcomes of the project that are already being included in the scale up of the technology are: the continuous charging of high rates of scrap or other iron-rich products, maximising the recovery of heat and maximising the CO2 concentration in the process gas, in order to ensure that the process is Carbon Capture ready.
The impacts as originally defined in the project proposal are still relevant and the importance of some of these impacts has only increased in the past few years. The project has clear environmental and social impacts, as described in more detail below.
Environmental impacts:
• The HIsarna technology offers an economically viable solution to the challenge of climate change.
• The technology offers more than 35% reduction in specific greenhouse gas emission intensity with respect to BAT;
• The technology will substantially reduce other emissions such as fine dust, CO, NOx and SOx;
• Elimination of coke plants, sinter plants, and blast furnaces will have a major impact on the future skyline and land use of the steel industry.
Bullet points two and three above are key aspects of the HIsarna process. During the project it was demonstrated that by using a combination of sustainable biomass as coal replacement and scrap charging as a low CO2 source of iron, the specific CO2 output of the integrated steelmaking route can be reduced by min. 50%, without using Carbon Capture technology. If Carbon Capture technology is used, either in combination with use or storage, CO2 emission reductions of min. 80% are possible. Ultimately an ironmaking process could be possible with no direct emissions.
The process intensification, where coke ovens, sinter plants and pellet plants, each with their own individual emissions, are not required, will also result in an overall reduction of other emissions. The HIsarna process can and will as a minimum have to meet the locally legislated single point emission limits.
As demonstrated in the trials where injection carrier gases were replaced with CO2, it is possible to make the HIsarna process fully Carbon Capture ready. If all the process gas from HIsarna was to be captured it would result in a ironmaking process without any notable emissions.
Socio-economic impacts:
• The HIsarna technology will boost Europe's industrial leadership in advanced manufacturing and processing. In addition, it will foster employment and open new market opportunities in this field. This would relate both to the European steel industry itself, as well as the many European engineering companies supplying the plant(s);
• The HIsarna technology will secure the future of the steel industry in Europe as a key enabling industry and important employer. This will also have a major impact on upstream and downstream related industries, including the mining industry, the cement industry (being an important user of slag by-products) and the metal processing industries;
• The HIsarna technology, once mature, is transferable across the iron and steel sector as a realistic alternative for blast furnaces. Other sectors, in particular those related to design, engineering and building of plant, equipment and control systems, would also benefit directly. SMEs will be part of the future suppliers and supporting companies for the plant(s);
• The technology also offers an opportunity for significant reduction in the EU ETS compliance costs for the steel industry, making the EU steel industry more competitive while avoiding any unwanted distortions between Member States;
These aspects ensure that HIsarna will become a leading technology in a rapidly changing EU steel industry in order to meet the environmental and social demands that society puts on industry in general. This way the future of the European steel industry and any related industries can be safeguarded and will provide employment across the board.
Besides the industrial implementation of HIsarna as a base technology for ironmaking there is a range of future prospects that will cement the strength of the technology and its role in an ever more circular economy. Ongoing projects include the implementation of continuous scrap feeding, the recovery of zinc, recycle internal slag and waste streams and also valorise the by-product streams resulting from HIsarna itself. Further opportunities and developments in the field of CO2 capture and usage, the use of sustainable biomass at an industrial scale and recovery of high value compounds from by-product streams are being considered.