Primetals Technologies, Mitsubishi Corporation, Fortescue Metals, and Voestalpine have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to design and build an industrial-scale prototype plant with a new process for producing zero-emission iron at Voestalpine’s plant in Linz, Austria.
The companies say the implementation and operation of the facility will also be studied collaboratively.
The new iron production process is based on HYFOR and smelter solutions from Primetals Technologies. According to Primetals, HYFOR is the world’s first direct reduction process for iron ore grinding that does not require agglomeration steps such as sintering or granulation.
The pilot plant has been operational since late 2021, and Primetals has completed a number of successful test campaigns over the past year, including successful trials of Fortescue Pilbara iron ore products.
The new melting technology used for smelting and final reduction of direct reduced iron (DRI) based on lower-grade iron ore. In this way, he creates a green hot metal alternative for the steel factory.
In the planning phase of the project, an industrial-scale prototype plant with a capacity of 3-5 t/h of “green” hot metal is planned. According to Primetals, this is the first solution that combines a hydrogen-based iron ore direct reduction plant with a smelter.
The main objective of the planning phase of the project is to develop the basis for a decision to implement a continuously operating prototype plant and then acquire the necessary know-how for the next step: a commercial full-scale plant. The aim is also to investigate the use of different types of iron ores in the production of DRI, ductile iron, and hot metal, and as a next step, to draw conclusions about the individual steps of the process and their combinations.
The hydrogen used in the new plant comes mainly from Verbund, Voestalpine, and Austria’s main producer of renewable energy, which uses a proton exchange membrane electrolyser called H2Future. The plant in Linz has a capacity of more than 6 MW and remains the largest steel plant in the world. The H2Future plant will be upgraded so that hydrogen gas can be compressed and stored before being used in the combined HYFOR and smelter.
Hubert Zajicek, Board Member of Voestalpine AG and Head of the Steel Division, said: “Voestalpine has a clear plan to decarbonize steel production through the Greentec steel program.” An important first step is the gradual transition from the blast furnace route to hybrid technology.
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“Our long-term mission is the production of carbon-neutral steel with green hydrogen, for which we are already conducting intensive research with promising cutting-edge technologies.” With a joint project with Primetals Technologies and Fortescue, we are taking a new path towards the goal of CO2-neutral steel production by 2050.
Fortescue’s main responsibility in the new project is to provide information on the quality and production of iron ore, and the company will also provide various iron ores to the new plant. Mark Hutchinson, CEO of Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) said the partnership fits perfectly with the company’s mining and renewable energy ambitions.