A new steelmaking technology that is claimed could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from the conventional ironmaking process, is being tested for the fourth time by Tata Steel.
The fourth test production campaign, at the Hlsarna pilot plant at the company's IJmuiden works in the Netherlands will begin mid-May and last about six weeks.
Hlsarna is the name of the new technology. It was developed partly at the IJmuiden works and enables the direct input of coal and fine iron ore into the ironmaking furnace. Tata Steel says that the process saves energy consumption by eliminating two of the key raw materials processing stages in conventional blast furnace ironmaking, namely coking and sintering. Coking is the production of coke from coal and sintering is the agglomeration of fine iron ore.
Hans Fischer, chief technical officer of Tata Steel's European operations and hub director of Tata Steel in IJmuiden said he was proud to have succeeded in designing and constructing this installation and to have advanced what is regarded as breakthrough technology. "During the third test campaign last year, liquid Hlsarna iron was produced in longer production runs than in previous campaigns and was used for the first time in the commercial steelmaking process," he explained.
Tata Steel is working closely with several other major steel companies in the ULCOS consortium and with mining company Rio Tinto. "The project is being carefully monitored by scientists and steel producers from all over the world," said Fischer, adding that it has the potential to become a game changer for the steel industry."It is one of several technologies regarded as having real prospects of further improving the sustainability of steelmaking," he said.
According to Fischer, “Despite the challenging economic circumstances in Europe, Tata Steel and its ULCOS partners have continued to support the HIsarna project. But future phases of HIsarna’s development will require very substantial investment that will exceed what the project partners can provide by themselves. We are now looking for further support from the European Commission and the Dutch government to enable this potentially breakthrough technology to progress to the next and more advanced stage.”
The fourth test campaign will aim to produce liquid iron in a series of production runs, each lasting several days. Different types of coal and iron ore will be tested and, after analysis, Tata Steel and its partners will prepare for a fifth and more prolonged campaign in 2015, which would last six months.
Tata Steel said, "Should the results of this test prove positive, the next crucial step in HIsarna’s development would be the design, construction and trial operation of an industrial-size HIsarna plant."