Electric Smelting Furnace Could Cut Steel Emission By More Than 80%

A pilot plant will test and optimize iron production using a new type of furnace.

Global engineering firm BHP yesterday signed an agreement with Hatch, a professional services firm, to design an electric smelting furnace (ESF) pilot plant.

The pilot will test and optimize iron production using a new type of furnace currently under development.

The ESF makes steel from iron ore using renewable electricity and hydrogen, replacing coking coal when combined with a direct reduced iron (DRI) step. 

The facility hopes to use iron ore from BHP's Australian mines to demonstrate a way to cut CO2 intensity in steel production. 

If successful, the project's findings could be shared with steel producers and other tech providers to accelerate scale-up of ESF plant designs.  

According to some estimates, this tech could reduce the CO2 emission intensity typically seen in conventional blast furnaces by more than 80%.

The ESF also allows for greater flexibility in input raw materials. Other methods that use electric arc furnaces only work with scrap steel and high-grade DRI. 

The small-scale plant will be built in Australia. BHP and Hatch are assessing several locations based on infrastructure, skills and local partnerships.

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