Tag Archives: Vale

XCMG 72-t battery-electric trucks start up at Vale operations

Vale says it has become the first major mining company to test 100% electric 72-tonne trucks, with the trial of the XCMG Mining Machinery Co. Ltd vehicles at its Brazil and Indonesia operations.

The trial of the vehicles represent another step in the electrification of the company’s assets, it said, which is part of its wider plans to operate with net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The first electric trucks to be used by a global mining company, tested at Água Limpa, in Minas Gerais, and Sorowako, in Indonesia, emit no CO2, replacing diesel with electricity from renewable sources. They also reduce noise, which minimises the impacts on the communities that live near the operations.

The equipment was produced by XCMG Mining Machinery Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co. Ltd, the largest machine manufacturer in China.

Last year, Vale signed an MoU with XCMG Construction Machinery Limited, a subsidiary of XCMG, for the potential supply of mining and infrastructure equipment, including zero-emission and autonomous equipment.

The 72-t electric off-highway trucks, model XDR80TE, are part of the Vale PowerShift program. Their batteries are able to store 525 kWh, allowing them to operate for up to 36 cycles along the established route, just over a day of operations, without the need to stop and recharge, and with the possibility of regenerating energy during descents, reducing the use of mechanical brakes, maintenance work and vibration, in addition to providing more operational comfort to drivers. The machine has temperature control technology, which allows it to adapt to high temperature, humidity and rainy working conditions, and to perform even in extremely cold, high altitude and harsh weather conditions.

Alexandre Pereira, Executive Vice President of Global Business Solutions at Vale, said: “To us, this partnership with XCMG is another important step in our long-term relationship with China and towards more sustainable mining. Our goal is to expand, together with global partners, the development and co-creation of technologies that respect the environment and zero out emissions.”

Dr. Hanson Liu, the Vice President of XCMG Machinery and General Manager of XCMG Import & Export Co., said: “XCMG and Vale have reached a consensus on the green development concept of dedicating to low-carbon mining and realising net zero emissions. The delivery of XCMG’s latest pure electric mining truck, XDR80TE, at this time is a manifestation of the joint efforts of both parties on promoting global environmental protection as well as green and sustainable economic development.”

Currently, emissions from off-highway trucks running on diesel represent bout 9% of Vale’s total scope 1 and 2 emissions.

The Powershift program was created by Vale with the aim of replacing fossil fuels with clean sources in its operations. The program is promoting innovative solutions to electrify the company’s mines and railroads. In addition to the 100% electric truck, Vale’s strategy for the electrification of assets also includes the operation of battery-powered locomotives in the yards of the ports of Tubarão, in Vitória, and Ponta da Madeira, in São Luís. In Canada, the Powershift program has also led to tests with electrical equipment in underground mines – there are currently about 40 that are currently operational.

Vale’s operational equipment electrification strategy also includes a partnership with its peers BHP and Rio Tinto. Last year, the three companies, along with 17 other mining companies, launched the Charge On Innovation Challenge, a global open innovation challenge with the goal of finding innovative solutions to accelerate the safe charging of batteries for future electric off-highway trucks.

Vale brings second Sustainable Sand operation online

Vale has added a second site to its Sustainable Sand efforts, having started industrial-scale production of the by-product at its Viga mine in Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The operation has the capacity to process 200,000 t/y of sand, with 80,000 t slated for 2022 and 185,000 t in 2023.

Obtained from the treatment of iron ore tailings, Sustainable Sand is one of the company’s initiatives to reduce the use of dams in its operations in Minas Gerais. The material can replace natural sand, extracted from river beds, with a wide application in the civil construction market.

Jean Menezes, Operations Manager of the Viga mine plant, said: “Due to the geological characteristics of the mine and the mineral processing technology applied, we developed a coarser sand, with low presence of fine particles in the material, and high purity content, having in its composition between 89% and 98% silica and less than 7% iron.”

The company is already conducting tests of the material with concrete and mortar producers in the Southeast Region, with the Sustainable Sand flowing between the production site and the clients by rail, taking advantage of the existing logistics at the site.

The Viga mine is Vale’s second unit to manufacture Sustainable Sand on an industrial scale, following the same quality controls as for iron ore production. The first was the Brucutu mine, in São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo, Minas Gerais, which processed 250,000 t of the material last year. The company’s projection is to produce 1 Mt of Sustainable Sand this year, before doubling the volume in 2023.

Each tonne of sand produced represents one tonne less of tailings being placed in piles or dams, Vale says.

Another initiative adopted by Vale to reduce its dependence on dams, and which also favours the production of Sustainable Sand at the mines, is the tailings filtration system. The technology reduces the moisture of the tailings, enabling both dry stacking of the material and the manufacture of sand for the market. Four tailings filtration plants have been implemented in Minas Gerais – one in the Vargem Grande Complex (in 2021), two in the Itabira Complex (between 2021 and 2022) and one in the Brucutu Mine (in 2022).

Vale has already invested more than BRL50 million ($9.7 million) and established partnerships with more than 40 organisations, including universities, research centres and domestic and foreign companies to study applications for material from iron ore processing. The objective is to make Vale’s operations safer and more sustainable, promoting the circular economy and benefiting society.

In March this year, the first road in Brazil to use Vale’s Sustainable Sand in all four layers of pavement was inaugurated. The 425-m-long track at Cauê mine, in Itabira, will be monitored for two years with 96 pressure, temperature, deformation and humidity sensors. Tests carried out during five years in the laboratory indicated that the increase in useful life is of the order of 50% and the cost reduction is 20% when compared with materials more commonly used for road construction, such as sand extracted from the environment. In addition, each kilometer of pavement can consume up to 7,000 t of tailings.

In April 2022, a study released by the University of Queensland (UQ), through its Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), the University of Geneva (Unige) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) pointed out that the sand from the iron ore production process, called “ore-sand”, can contribute to solve two important environmental issues by reducing both the extraction of natural sand from the environment and the generation of mining waste.

BluVein’s underground dynamic charging developments accelerating

BluVein, after officially receiving agreement and project approval from all project partners, has initiated the third phase of technology development and testing of its underground mine electrification solution, BluVein1, it says.

BluVein is a joint venture between Australia-based mining innovator Olitek and Sweden-based electric highways developer Evias. The company has devised a patented slotted (electric) rail system, which uses an enclosed electrified e-rail system mounted above or beside the mining vehicle together with the BluVein hammer that connects the electric vehicle to the rail.

The system, which is OEM agnostic, provides power for driving the vehicle, typically a mine truck, and charging the truck’s batteries while the truck is hauling load up the ramp and out of an underground mine.

The underground-focused development under BluVein is coined BluVein1, with the open-pit development looking to offer dynamic charging for ultra-class haul trucks called BluVein XL. This latter project was recently named among eight winning ideas selected to progress to the next stage of the Charge On Innovation Challenge.

The purpose of the third phase of the BluVein1 technology development is to:

  • Conduct a full-scale refined hammer (collector) and arm design and testing with a second prototype;
  • Execute early integration works with mining partners and OEMs;
  • Provide full-power dynamic energy transfer for a vehicle demonstration on a local test site; and
  • Confirm a local test site for development.

IM understands that the company is close to sealing an agreement for a local test site where it will carry out trials of the dynamic charging technology.

James Oliver, CEO, BluVein, said the third phase represents an essential final pre-pilot stage of BluVein1.

“It excites me that the BluVein solution is becoming an industry reality,” he said. “The faster BluVein1 is ready for deployment, the better for our partners and the mining industry globally.”

BluVein recently entered a Memorandum of Understanding with Epiroc, where the Sweden-based OEM will provide the first ever diesel-to-battery-converted Minetruck MT42 underground truck for pilot testing on the slotted electric rail system from BluVein.

“This MoU also ensures that we are designing and developing the system into a real-world BEV for full-scale live testing and demonstration on a pilot site in 2023,” BluVein says.

In addition to Epiroc, IM understands BluVein is working with Sandvik, MacLean, Volvo and Scania, among others, on preparing demonstration vehicles for the BluVein1 pilot site.

The BluVein1 consortium welcomed South32 into the project in May, joining Northern Star Resources, Newcrest Mining, Vale, Glencore, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and BHP, all of which have signed a consortium project agreement that aims to enable final system development and the construction of a technology demonstration pilot site in Australia.

The project is being conducted through the consortium model by Rethink Mining, powered by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), which CMIC says is a unique collaboration structure that fast-tracks mining innovation technologies such as BluVein and CAHM (Conjugate Anvil Hammer Mill).

Carl Weatherell, Executive Director and CEO, CMIC/President Rethink Mining Ventures, said: “With the urgent need to decarbonise, CMIC’s approach to co-develop and co-deploy new platform technologies is the way to accelerate to net zero greenhouse gases. The BluVein consortium is a perfect example of how to accelerate co-development of new technology platforms.”

Oliver concluded: “The BluVein1 consortium is a great reminder that many hands make light work, and through this open collaboration with OEMs and mining companies, we’re moving faster together towards a cleaner, greener future for mining.”

Vale clears another hurdle in pursuit of lower-carbon fuel adoption in shipping operations

Vale says it has achieved a major advance in the adoption of alternative, lower-carbon fuels for shipping, with the company’s design to incorporate multi-fuel tanks on iron ore carriers having received an Approval in Principle (AIP) from the leading classification society, DNV.

The independent assessment performed by DNV verifies the technical feasibility of the design and indicates that, based on this system, developed in partnership with Norwegian companies Brevik Engineering AS and Passer Marine, vessels chartered by the mining company could be adapted to store fuels as liquefied natural gas (LNG), methanol and ammonia in the future.

The multi-fuel tank design is part of the Ecoshipping program, developed by Vale to adopt new technologies and renew its fleet with the aim of reducing carbon emissions from shipping. A preliminary study for ships of the Guaibamax category estimates that emissions reductions can range from 40-80% when powered by methanol and ammonia, or up to 23% in the case of LNG.

Currently, dozens of second-generation VLOCs (Very Large Ore Carriers) already in operation, with 400,000 t and 325,000 t capacities, have been designed for future installation of an LNG system, including an under-deck compartment to receive a tank with capacity for the entire voyage. Having received the AIP for the multi-fuel tank design, a pilot project will now be developed in the coming months for the implementation of this system on a Guaibamax.

Vale says it has invested heavily to incorporate state-of-the-art efficiency and environmental innovation in the shipping area. Since 2018, the company has been operating second-generation Valemaxes and, since 2019, Guaibamaxes, with capacities of 400,000 t and 325,000 t, respectively. These vessels are among the most efficient in the world and can reduce CO2-equivalent emissions by up to 41% compared with a capesize ship of 180,000 t built in 2011, the company claims.

Vale’s Shipping Technical Manager, Rodrigo Bermelho, said: “The multi-fuel tank system removes some of the main barriers to the adoption of alternative fuels, which include regulatory and infrastructure uncertainty in defining the optimal fuel. It is a solution for the future, but one that could also impact existing ships, many of which have more than 20 years of service life ahead of them. Allied to other energy efficiency technologies in progress at Vale, such as rotating sails and air lubrication, it allows us to have more efficient vessels with very low carbon emissions.”

In addition to adopting alternative fuels, Vale says it has developed innovative energy-efficient technologies: last year, it presented the first ore carrier equipped with rotating sails and the first Guaibamax ship with air lubrication installed. These initiatives are part of Ecoshipping.

Vale has announced investments of up to $6 billion since 2020 to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 33% by 2030. The company has also committed to a 15% reduction in Scope 3 emissions by 2035, related to the value chain, of which shipping emissions are part, since the ships are not owned by the company. The targets are aligned with the ambition of the Paris Agreement.

Vale goes in search of more mining innovations with new venture capital initiative

Vale says it is launching Vale Ventures, its corporate venture capital initiative, to support pioneering start-ups around the world and create new business opportunities and innovative technologies to incorporate into its own operations.

The $100 million fund has been setup to acquire minority stakes in start-ups focused on four themes:

  • Decarbonisation in the mining value chain – Invest in technologies that will help Vale and its customers reduce carbon emissions, supporting its goal to become carbon neutral by 2050;
  • Zero-waste mining – Reduce waste and the environmental impact of mining while supporting the circular economy and generating new revenue streams;
  • Energy transition metals – Accelerate the supply of essential metals to power the energy transition and foster emerging demand drivers; and
  • The future of mining – Invest in disruptive technologies that will change how miners operate.

Viktor Moszkowicz, Head of Vale Ventures, says: “We will collaborate with forward-thinking start-ups bringing big ideas and bold thinking to these monumental challenges. By creating a portfolio of disruptive solutions, we can generate financial and strategic return, and bring new business opportunities, insights and knowledge to our company, customers and society.”

The company added: “Vale Ventures reinforces Vale’s larger commitment to innovation, which is key to improve life and transform the future together with society.”

BluVein XL open-pit mining dynamic charging solution gains momentum

Much of the buzz around BluVein to this point has focused on its dynamic charging infrastructure for underground mining and quarries, but the company has also been gaining momentum around a surface mining project – as the most recent Charge On™ Innovation Challenge announcement indicates.

The company and its BluVein XL solution were today named among eight winning ideas selected to progress to the next stage of the competition, which is seeking to solve one of the biggest challenges in decarbonising mining operations: the electrification of haul trucks.

Within this context, BluVeinXL, the company’s new product line, will be capable of dynamically feeding power to heavy-duty mining fleets with up to 250-t payloads.

The technology leverages much of what was developed for BluVein1: a patented slotted (electric) rail system using an enclosed electrified e-rail system mounted above or beside the mining vehicle together with the BluVein hammer that connects the electric vehicle to the rail. This system provides power for driving the vehicle, typically a mine truck, and charging the truck’s batteries while the truck is hauling load up the ramp and out of an underground mine.

To this point, funding support for the BluVein1 project – being developed for vehicles up to 60-t payload and powered by Rethink Mining (Powered by CMIC) – is being provided by Vale, Glencore, Oz Minerals, Northern Star, South32, BHP, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and Newcrest Mining.

BluVeinXL, meanwhile, has seen the company engage with more than 10 “global mining company leaders” in progressing to a pilot demonstration of the technology. While the company plans to announce the names of these supporting mining companies shortly, it says they all see the need for an industry-standardised, OEM-agnostic, safe dynamic power feed infrastructure to suit mixed OEM open-pit fleets.

The key benefits of the dynamic power feeding solution BluVein is pushing are smaller on-board battery packs, faster vehicle haulage speeds up ramp, grid load balancing and maximum fleet availability.

“Our mining company supporters have provided feedback to us on the benefits they see with BluVeinXL over traditional overhead exposed wire catenary systems offered by other OEMs,” the company said. These are:

  • Near to the ground installation enabled by our patented Ingress Protected safe slotted rail technology;
  • Safer and faster installation;
  • Easy relocation as required to suit open-pit ramp movements over time;
  • Requires no heavy civil foundation requirements;
  • Alleviates the requirements on haul road conditions;
  • Offers purchasing flexibility on electric vehicles through the adoption of an industry-standard dynamic power feed infrastructure; and
  • Safer mine sites with no high voltage exposed overhead wires.

The company concluded: “Together with our mining company supporters, BluVein looks forward to working with all OEMs as we progress towards our planned pilot demonstration at a yet to be announced location.”

Vale’s Sustainable Sand to impact tailings generation plans

The University of Queensland – through its Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) – and the University of Geneva recently released a report indicating that sand from the iron ore production process may contribute to solving two important environmental issues by reducing sand extracted from the natural environment and cutting the generation of mining tailings.

One of the big contributors to this report was Vale, which, itself, has developed Sustainable Sand, a co-product of iron ore processing that, instead of being disposed in piles and dams, is now being processed and transformed into a product, following the same quality controls as in its iron ore production.

This year, Vale will allocate around 1 Mt of sand between sales and donations for use in civil construction and tests in pavement, among other uses. Much of this is set to come from its Brucutu mine in Minas Gerais.

IM put some questions to Bruno Batista, Engineer at Brucutu mine, and Fabiano Carvalho Filho, Executive Manager for Ferrous Business Development, to find out more about the company’s plans for Sustainable Sand.

IM: How has Vale changed its operational practices at mine sites to make the most of the Sustainable Sand process? For instance, have mine plans or layouts been adapted to ensure it is easier to obtain and process this material?

BB: First of all, Vale has done deep research about the technical potential for iron ore tailings and the mineral processing to obtain sand from them. Despite sand generation sharing existing assets deployed for the exploration of iron ore, it is important to highlight that Vale had to obtain the mineral and environmental licence to produce, sell and donate sand. The use of new technologies for greater recovery of iron ore have been installed in our operations and, as a result, we will have better quality sandy tailings. In some cases, it was necessary to implement new stages of concentration, classification and filtration so that it was possible to produce quality sand that met market requirements. We did change the quality control, treating sand as a product, with specification, daily analysis and process adjustment in order to meet it.

IM: I think it was 250,000 t of sand set aside for sale or donation to be used in concrete, mortar, cement and road pavement last year, another 1 Mt/y this year and 2 Mt/y in 2023. What are the longer-term goals for Sustainable Sand and – at the same time – how is this impacting your tailings handling plans?

BB: Vale’s objective is to enable more sustainable mining. The figures you mention are correct. Our pace of production in the long term will depend upon several factors, such as logistics capacity and market availability. Sustainable Sand is one of the initiatives to reduce the generation of tailings. Other initiatives are being developed as such as dry concentration and tailings filtering.

IM: Is there a balance to be had here with using sand for dry-stacked tailings purposes – increasing the stability of your tailings infrastructure – and donating/selling it for other uses? Is this what could potentially put a ‘cap’ on your Sustainable Sand production for sale/donation?

BB: Coarse tailings are destined for sand production and also for dry stacking. To increase more significantly sand production there are some challenges, such as logistics capacity and market availability. Vale is advancing and we should forecast a production of 2 Mt in 2023. We are also studying applications for the ultrafine material, so we would need less coarse tailings for dry stacking.

IM: Aside from the 425-m-long road at the Cauê mine, in Itabira, and the Pico Block Factory, what other applications will the sand have?

FCF: At the moment, the focus is on the construction market, mainly concrete, mortar and cement, as it has the largest production scale and is already being sold to by Vale, and road pavement, in which we are advancing our research. Vale has a portfolio of more than 20 initiatives for the use of tailings from mining. These initiatives are the result of partnerships with universities, research centres and other companies. These are initiatives that encompass several industries, focused on civil construction, chemical industry and automotive, among others. The initiatives are at different stages of maturity and the future of the projects still depends on progress in the research being carried out.

IM: Sand is the planet’s most mined material, so what does Vale plan to do with this Sustainable Sand process to reduce the environmental impact of the wider mining industry?

FCF: Vale’s objective is to enable more sustainable mining. The UNEP report (2022), in which the Vale Sand Case has been studied, shows that substituting naturally-sourced sand with ore sand (sand from iron ore tailings) could potentially lead to net reductions in carbon emissions generated during sand production. The substitution of marine or riverine sand for ore sand could also lead to a reduction in ecosystem damage. Besides that, Vale Sand is a certified product, which can contribute to this particular industry.

IM: Is there potential for other iron ore mining companies using this process to reduce their own tailings generation? the process been patented?

FCF: Iron ore tailings beneficiation demands investments and technology; there are patents involved in the development of other products derived from the sand.

South32 becomes latest miner to join BluVein mine electrification project

BluVein has announced its ninth and newest funding partner to join the BluVein mine electrification project powered by Rethink Mining (Powered by CMIC), with South32 being the latest miner to join the cause.

BluVein is a joint venture between Australia-based mining innovator Olitek and Sweden-based electric highways developer Evias. The company has devised a patented slotted (electric) rail system, which uses an enclosed electrified e-rail system mounted above or beside the mining vehicle together with the BluVein hammer that connects the electric vehicle to the rail. The system provides power for driving the vehicle, typically a mine truck, and charging the truck’s batteries while the truck is hauling load up the ramp and out of an underground mine.

South32 joins Vale, Northern Star Resources Limited, Glencore, Newcrest Mining, AngloGold Ashanti, BHP, OZ Minerals and Agnico Eagle Mines Limited as BluVein funding partners.

Earlier this month, BluVein and Epiroc formed an MoU with BluVein aimed at fast-tracking development of the BluVein dynamic charging solution towards an industrialised and robust solution which is ready for deployment across the global mining industry. The MoU is focused on the BluVein Underground solution (BluVein1), but BluVein is also developing a solution for open-pit mining.

Vale and Nippon Steel to evaluate carbon-neutral ironmaking solutions

Vale and Japan’s Nippon Steel have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to pursue ironmaking solutions focused on a carbon-neutral steelmaking process, the iron ore miner says.

Vale and Nippon Steel intend to jointly study and explore (i) metallic usage solutions such as direct reduced iron (DRI) and pig iron produced by Tecnored technology; and (ii) usage of Vale’s green briquettes in the ironmaking process and other lower carbon footprint products such as pellets.

This initiative contributes to Vale’s commitment to reduce net Scope 3 emissions by 15% by 2035. Additionally, Vale seeks to reduce its absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 33% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement, leading the evolution process towards sustainable mining.

In April, Vale and the Government of the State of Pará held an event to mark the beginning of the construction works of the first commercial plant of Tecnored in Brazil. Tecnored’s technology allows the production of so-called ‘green pig iron’, by replacing metallurgical coal with biomass, thus reducing carbon emissions and contributing to the decarbonisation of the steel industry.

The unit will have an initial capacity to produce 250,000 t/y of green pig iron, with the possibility of reaching 500,000 t/y in the future. The start-up is scheduled for 2025 with an estimated investment of approximately BRL1.6 billion ($342 million).

Vale’s Sustainable Sand wins plaudits as miner starts construction on ‘green pig iron’ plant

Vale’s sustainability efforts are continuing to be displayed to the rest of the industry, with the major miner making a significant contribution to a report on the sustainable use of sand in mining and starting construction on a ‘green pig iron’ production facility in Brazil.

On the former, the University of Queensland, through its Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI), and the University of Geneva, recently released a report indicating that sand from the ore production process may contribute to solving two important environmental issues by reducing sand extracted from the natural environment and the mining tailings generation. Vale contributed to the report and facilitated the sampling of its Sustainable Sand produced at the Brucutu mine in Minas Gerais for an independent analysis.

Vale’s Sustainable Sand is a co-product of iron ore processing. Based on adjustments in the operation, the sandy material, previously disposed in piles and dams, is now processed and transformed into a product, following the same quality controls as in the iron ore production. This year, Vale will allocate around 1 Mt of sand, between sales and donations, for use in civil construction and tests in pavement, among other uses.

The company came up with the process after seven years of research and investment of about BRL50 million ($8.9 million), it said last year.

The SMI report carried out by the universities, ‘Ore-sand: A potential new solution to the mining tailings and global sand sustainability crises’, investigated whether sand from ore processing, described by the term “ore-sand”, could become a sustainable source of sand and at the same time reduce the volume of tailings generated by mining.

Material characterisation results from the report indicate that the sampled material is inert and non-toxic, and can be suitable for certain applications, either on its own or as a part of a blend, such as with coarser sand, in order to meet specific grading requirements. Separating and repurposing these sand-like materials before they are added to the waste stream would not only significantly reduce the volume of waste being generated but could also create a responsible source of sand, Vale said.

The report found that, from a technical perspective, sand from iron ore operations can be a direct substitute for sand extracted from the environment in brick making, pavement, in embankments and cement manufacturing. When mixed with coarser sand and other aggregates, it can be used in the production of concrete and mortar, drainage and soil improvement, and water treatment.

The life cycle assessment of “ore-sand”, based on the case of Vale’s Sustainable Sand, also shows that this material has the potential to present lower net carbon emissions during its production when compared with sand extracted from the environment. However, to get a better idea of the potential of this reduction, it is necessary to carry out an assessment of the product’s transport stage, which was not covered in this report, Vale added.

Last week, Vale inaugurated the first road in Brazil using “ore-sand” in all four layers of the pavement. The 425-m-long road at the Cauê mine, in Itabira, will be monitored for two years with pressure, temperature, deformation and humidity sensors. Tests carried out during five years in the laboratory showed an increase in lifespan of around 50% and a cost reduction of 20% when compared with the most commonly used materials for road construction, such as sand extracted from the environment, Vale said. In addition, each kilometre of pavement can consume up to 7,000 t of tailings.

‘Green pig iron’

Earlier in the month, Vale and the Government of the State of Pará held an event to mark the beginning of the construction works of the first commercial plant of Tecnored in Brazil. Tecnored’s technology allows the production of so-called ‘green pig iron’, by replacing metallurgical coal with biomass, thus reducing carbon emissions and contributing to the decarbonisation of the steel industry.

The unit will have an initial capacity to produce 250,000 t/y of green pig iron, with the possibility of reaching 500,000 t/y in the future. The start-up is scheduled for 2025 with an estimated investment of approximately BRL1.6 billion ($342 million).

Vale’s President, Eduardo Bartolomeo, said the implementation of Tecnored represents an important step in the transformation of mining, contributing to making the process chain increasingly sustainable.

“The Tecnored project is of great importance to Vale and to the region and will bring gains in competitiveness, environmental sustainability and development for the region,” he said.

Eduardo Bartolomeo greets the Governor of Pará, Hélder Barbalho, during the launch ceremony for the Tecnored commercial plant

In the implementation phase of the project, which will work in the area of the old Ferro-Gusa Carajás, in the industrial district of the municipality, it is estimated that around 2,000 jobs will be generated at the peak of works. In the operational phase, about 400 direct and indirect jobs should be created, according to progress and engineering studies.

The Tecnored furnace is much smaller in size than a traditional steel blast furnace and is flexible in its use of raw materials, which can range from iron ore fines and steel residues to dam sludge, Vale said.

As fuel, the furnace can be fed by carbonised biomass, such as sugarcane bagasse and eucalyptus. Both are transformed into briquettes (small compact blocks) and deposited in the furnace, generating green pig iron. The furnace also allows the use of thermal coal itself as fuel. In this first instance, fossil fuels will be used to evaluate the performance of the plant, Vale explained.

Leonardo Caputo, Tecnored’s CEO, said: “Gradually, we are going to replace coal with carbonised biomass until we reach the goal of 100% biomass.”

The flexibility in the use of fuels in the furnace allows operating costs to be reduced by up to 15% compared with a traditional blast furnace, Vale claims.

Developed over the last 35 years, Tecnored’s technology also eliminates the coke furnaces and sintering processes: stages prior to the production of steel in the steel mill that are intensive in their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This also reduces capital costs by up to 15%, according to Vale.

In addition, the plant is self-sustaining in terms of energy efficiency, with all the process gas reused and a portion used for energy co-generation, the company said. The slag by-product can be used as raw material in the cement industry.

Currently, Vale maintains a demonstration plant of this technology in Pindamonhangaba, with a rated capacity of 75,000 t/y, where tests were carried out to develop the technology and technical and economic feasibility.

Tecnored’s commercial plant in Marabá is part of Vale’s effort to offer its steelmaking customers technological solutions to help decarbonise their production processes.

In 2020, the company assumed the goal of reducing Scope 3 net emissions by 15% by 2035. Of this total, the company will contribute up to 25% through a high-quality products portfolio and technological solutions, including green pig iron. Today, the steel industry represents 94% of Vale’s Scope 3 emissions.

Vale also announced the goal achieving net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2050 and, to that end, it is investing between $4-6 billion, as well as committing to recover and protect another 500,000 ha of forest in Brazil.