Image credit: Primetals Technologies Ltd

Primetals Technologies, part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has announced the successful start of operations at its Hydrogen-based fine-ore reduction (HYFOR) pilot plant at the voestalpine steelworks in Donawitz, Austria.

The use of 100% hydrogen as a reduction agent reduces the CO2 footprint close to zero and makes use of a process capable of processing iron ore fines with particle sizes smaller than 0.15 mm. This means it can use lower grade ores to extract iron for high-quality steel.

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Initial tests have proven successful, however, the HYFOR pilot plant will be operational for the next two years during which continued testing and evaluation will take place. In time, the direct reduction plant will be available to customers in a modular design that will allow it to be tailored to suit all sizes of steel plants.

HYFOR direct reduction pilot plant. Credit: Primetals

According to Primetals, the steel industry accounts for around 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions and with the World Steel Association estimating that global steel demand will rise by 5.8% this year as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that the sector, and hard to abate industries, shift to production methods that are less carbon-intensive and support the development of a low-carbon society.

The HYFOR pilot plant consists of three parts: a preheating-oxidation unit, a gas treatment plant and the actual reduction unit.

In the preheating-oxidation unit, fine ore concentrate is heated to approx. 900 °C and fed to the reduction unit. The reduction gas, 100% H2, is supplied over the fence from a gas supplier. A dry dedusting system takes care of dust recycling to prevent emissions from the processes involved. The hot direct reduced iron (HDRI) leaves the reduction unit at a temperature of approx. 600 °C before it’s cooled down and discharged from the HYFOR pilot plant. The next step will be the addition of a Hot Briquetting Testing facility to produce Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI).

The aim of the HYFOR pilot plant is to serve as a testing facility to provide the data basis for upscaling the plant size to an industrial-scale prototype plant as the next development step.

This project is funded by the Climate and Energy Fund and is carried out under the programme Energieforschung.