Steel Production

When people think of steel production, they usually have images of blast furnaces in mind. In this energy-intensive process route, pig iron is produced in the blast furnace, which is then processed into crude steel by adding oxygen. An alternative production involves an electric arc furnace. In this method, recycled steel scrap or sponge iron produced from iron ore is melted into crude steel.

Compared to the conventional blast furnace route, an electric arc furnace produces up to 80% fewer carbon emissions. However, as emissions are still caused by this process, there is a growing desire for even more carbon-reduced steel to be produced using renewable energies and green hydrogen.


 

Three main routes to produce steel

                                     

Blast Furnace (BF BOF)

Iron ore pellets and sinter feed are the iron-bearing raw materials. Coke from metallurgical coal is the main energy source. These elements and limestone are fed into the blast oven furnace from the top, while hot air is blasted from the bottom. The burning coke creates temperatures of ~2,000 °C, extracting hot metal (pig iron) from the raw material. The hot metal is transformed into steel through oxidation in a basic oxygen furnace (BOF). Often some scrap is added. The resulting liquid steel is then cast.


 

Electric Arc Furnace (EAF)

Most EAF mills use scrap as their main input. In regions with competitive gas prices, direct reduced iron (DRI) may also be used. For direct reduced iron, iron ore and pellets can be reduced in a solid state for use in the EAF. Natural gas is typically used as a reductant. Scrap or direct reduced iron is melted in an EAF at around 3,000 °C. Graphite electrodes function as an arc to transform the electrical energy into heat.


 

Direct Reduced Iron EAF

The future of steel is green – and there are two possible ways to get to green steel production. The first is steel from EAF production that uses 100% scrap and is powered with renewable energy. Given the finite amount of scrap, green steel production via this route is naturally limited. The second way is using green H2 as the reductant for direct reduced iron in an electric arc furnace pathway (see electric arc furnace). Beyond that, other alternatives for sustainable iron reduction are also being developed. 

  

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Blast Furnace (BF BOF)

Iron ore pellets and sinter feed are the iron-bearing raw materials. Coke from metallurgical coal is the main energy source. These elements and limestone are fed into the blast oven furnace from the top, while hot air is blasted in from the bottom. The burning coke creates temperatures of ~2000°C, extracting hot metal/pig iron from the raw material. The hot metal is transformed into steel through oxidation in a basic oxygen furnace (BOF). Often some scrap is added. The resulting liquid steel is then cast.

  

Electric Arc Furnace (EAF)

Most EAF mills use scrap as their main input. In regions with competitive gas prices, direct reduced iron (DRI) may also be used. For direct reduced iron, iron ore and pellets can be reduced in a solid state for use in the EAF. Natural gas is usually used as a reductant. Scrap or direct reduced iron is melted in an EAF at around 3000°C. Graphite electrodes function as an arc to transform the electrical energy into heat.

  

Direct Reduced Iron EAF

The future of steel is green. And there are two possible ways to get to green steel production. The first is steel from EAF production that uses 100% scrap and is powered with renewable energy. Given the finite amount of scrap, green steel production via this route is naturally limited. The second way is using green H2 as the reductant for direct reduced iron in an electric arc furnace pathway (see Electric arc furnace). Beyond that, other alternatives for sustainable iron reduction are also being developed.

  

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