Transformation towards fossil-free steelmaking

When transforming towards fossil-free steelmaking it includes a shift in steelmaking technology and associated logistic support system. It also included the change from liquid iron feedstock (from the Blast Furnace – BF) to a solid direct reduced iron (from the Direct Reduction plant – DR) feedstock, which requires significant changes in the production system. Preferably, the transformation should occur with a redundant production system to minimize production losses during the transition.

The options at hand and the transformation schedule are highly dependent on the existing plant production configuration. A gradual shift in iron feedstock between the new and old producing units is probably the best option to meet production targets while minimizing the cost of stranded assets.

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Secure iron feedstock when moving towards fossil-free steelmaking

Without iron, the steelmaking stops. In principle, the BF’s pig iron will be replaced by scrap and DRI, but costs and material flows are sometimes a practical challenge and a significant risk during the transition.
To secure iron supply is a vital parameter to consider when implementing production changes. If a tiered transition is possible, supply chain impact is less abrupt and easier to manage. The possibility of having several independent iron sourcing options available is key to staying in control during the transition.

Secure green (electrical) energy supply

The major change in a CO2 mitigation transformation is the exchange of primary energy sources. Coking coal is replaced by (renewable) electricity and hydrogen for the reduction processes. This is an energy shift corresponding to ~3 000 kWh/ton steel, a tremendous amount of energy when considering the annual iron tonnage typically produced, that represents a large part of the total operational costs.
Thus, the most favorable location of the energy-intensive DR-processing step is to be scrutinized and selected based on the expected long-time energy costs. Challenge the status quo by always including a future scenario where the DR-processing is relocated to a new geographical location (with low-cost renewable energy available).

Match product quality and processing capabilities

Specialized product requirements, such as extreme nitrogen levels, may require extra attention when shifting processing routes. It is essential to understand the different process characteristics and their potential impact on processing capabilities concerning product specifications and certificates.
A mismatch between processing capability and product requirements could almost always be resolved eventually, but it may require extensive efforts such as additional investments or rearrangement of the product portfolio.
The above problems need time to be resolved, and the safe option when transforming is to buy time to cushion the impact of any process-product mismatch.

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