Sanghoon Joo, Myoungkyun Shin, Martin Schmidt, et al.
A cheaper, faster and cleaner way to smelt steel. In a field responsible for 27% of industrial CO2 emissions and 5% of all man-made greenhouse gases, this streamlined method for reducing molten iron conserves finite natural resources and reduces air pollution.
Posco & Siemens VAI Metals Technologies GmbH
Metallurgy, raw materials
Smelting is an important step of steel production that allows extracting an elemental metal, such as iron, from its ore. This is usually achieved by combining purified coal, or 'coke', with the ore in a blast furnace and letting the resulting chemical reaction decompose the ore until only usable metal is left. The reduction technique, however, works by heating and reducing iron ore via a special reduction gas inside the furnace and introducing only low-grade coal at a later stage. This method speeds up the smelting process and eliminates the need for the expensive, high-quality coal that makes up only 15% of global coal reserves, instead using more plentiful, low-grade coal.
Catalysation takes place in a closed atmosphere, and gaseous byproducts can be trapped and used for electric power generation and heating purposes, ensuring nothing goes to waste. FINEX plants also release about 12% less CO2 into the atmosphere than traditional blast furnaces.
The quality of the final product is equal to that from traditional blast furnaces, but operational costs drop by nearly a quarter - a windfall in terms of industry profits. Due to their reduced raw material costs, plants outfitted with FINEX technology cost 8% less to build than blast-furnace facilities of the same scale.