Primetals Technologies, Mitsubishi Corporation, Fortescue and voestalpine have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at designing and engineering an industrial-scale prototype plant with a new process for net-zero-emission ironmaking at the voestalpine site in Linz, Austria.
The collaboration will also investigate the implementation and operation of the plant, the companies say.
The new ironmaking process will be based on Primetals Technologies’ HYFOR and Smelter solutions. HYFOR is, according to Primetals, the world’s first direct reduction process for iron ore fines that will not require any agglomeration steps, like sintering or pelletising. A pilot plant has been in operation since the end of 2021, and Primetals has run numerous successful test campaigns over the last year including successful trials on Fortescue’s Pilbara iron ore products.
The new Smelter technology from Primetals Technologies is a furnace powered by electrical energy. It is used for melting and final reduction of direct reduced iron (DRI) based on lower-grade iron ore. In that way, it produces alternative green hot metal for the steelmaking plant.
The project planning phase will be used to design an industrial-scale prototype plant with a capacity of between 3-5 t/h of ‘green’ hot metal. It is the first solution to link a hydrogen-based direct reduction plant for iron ore fines with a smelter, Primetals says.
The main goal of the project planning phase is to develop the basis for decision to realise a prototype plant capable of continuous operation, and then to gain the know-how needed for the next step: a commercial full-scale plant. Another target is to investigate the use of various types of iron ores to produce DRI, hot briquetted iron and hot metal and, as a next step, draw conclusions about the individual process steps as well as different combinations of them.
The hydrogen used in the new plant will mainly come from Verbund, voestalpine’s and Austria’s leading renewable energy producer, who operates a proton exchange membrane electrolyser named H2Future. Located in Linz, this plant has a capacity of over 6 MW, and is still the world’s largest of its kind used at a steel plant. The H2Future plant will be upgraded to allow for the compression and storage of hydrogen gas before use in the combined HYFOR and Smelter plant.
Hubert Zajicek, Member of the Management Board of voestalpine AG and Head of the Steel Division, said: “voestalpine has a clear plan to decarbonise steel production with the greentec steel program. An important first step is the incremental shift from the blast furnace route to a hybrid-electric steel pathway from 2027.
“Over the long term, our mission is carbon-neutral steel production using green hydrogen, for which we are already undertaking intensive research into promising breakthrough technologies. With the joint project with Primetals Technologies and Fortescue, we are taking another new path towards achieving the goal of CO2-neutral steel production by 2050.”
Fortescue’s main responsibility in the new project is to provide knowledge about iron ore quality and preparation. In addition, Fortescue will supply various iron ores for the new plant.
Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) CEO, Mark Hutchinson, said the partnership was the perfect alignment of the company’s mining and renewable energy goals.