BHP and Hatch to design electric smelting furnace pilot facility

BHP and Hatch have signed an agreement to design a pilot electric smelting furnace (ESF) plant in support of a decision to […]
Jan Kwak (left), Regional Managing Director for Hatch in Australia-Asia is joined by Michiel Hovers, BHP’s Group Sales and Marketing Officer. Hatch photo

BHP and Hatch have signed an agreement to design a pilot electric smelting furnace (ESF) plant in support of a decision to construct the facility in Australia. The facility will aim to demonstrate a pathway to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) intensity in steel production using iron ore from BHP's Pilbara mines for BHP's steelmaking customers.

The pilot facility would be intended to test and optimise production of iron from the ESF, a new type of furnace that is being developed by steel producers and technology companies targeting low CO2 emission-intensity steel. The ESF is capable of producing steel from iron ore using renewable electricity and hydrogen replacing coking coal, when combined with a direct reduced iron (DRI) step. The small-scale demonstration plant would be used to collaborate with steel producers and technology providers to generate and share learnings with the aim of accelerating scale up of ESF plant designs.

Estimates show that reductions of more than 80% in CO2 emission intensity are potentially achievable processing Pilbara iron ores through a DRI-ESF pathway, compared with the current industry average for the conventional blast furnace steel route.

BHP and Hatch will assess several locations in Australia for the proposed facility based on supporting infrastructure, technology skills and the availability of local partnerships to build and operate the facility.

"Hatch is a key partner in carbon emissions reduction initiatives across the world. We are pleased that we can collaborate with Hatch, alongside BHP's existing customer and research partnerships, to further progress the development of pathways towards a lower GHG emission footprint for the steelmaking industry. The ESF technology is very exciting and potentially very relevant for reducing the carbon emissions intensity of steel production and provides new and exciting opportunities for our Pilbara iron ore and our customers," said BHP's group sales and marketing officer, Michiel Hovers.

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