Flexibility in raw materials selection and significantly low operational costs add to the new technology’s commercial prospects
Among the few iron making processes that have emerged as an alternative to the BF route, the Finexprocess – developed by steel behemoth POSCO in conjunction with Primetals Technologies – happens to be the most promising, not least because it is the only one that has passed the litmus test of commercial feasibility at POSCO’s Pohang steelworks in South Korea.
The 2 million tonnes/per annum Finex plant in operation at Pohang from 2014 onwards scores over the BF route in several key respects. The main advantages are: (a) use of iron ore fines (even with higher Al2O3 content) as opposed to lumpy ore which is scarce in the subcontinent; (b) use of non-coking coal as opposed to polluting coke, especially merchant coke that Chinese coking plants supply and which are increasingly facing the axe of environmental legislations in that country; and (c) use of pure oxygen that replaces the nitrogen-rich BF gas.
Capital expenditure of the Finex process is around 10% to 15% lower than the BF route due mainly to the fact that land cost is lower, as a Finex plant sans a sintering unit and a coke oven battery doesn’t need the characteristically huge BF setting. Therefore, investment is lower with the Finex route.
The big OPEX advantage of Finex is that owing to the use of non-coking coal, the hard coking coal required for a BF can be totally dispensed with. The avoidance of the agglomeration step, too, gives further OPEX advantage.
A very important factor with Finex is the utilization of the export gas. With Finex, approximately 8 to 13 GJ/t hot metal (depending on the plant configuration) is produced which, over and above power generation, can be used for DRI production and the generation of synthetic gas for the chemical industry.
Cutting down on carbon
What’s more, Finex has the lowest process-related emission rates (approximately 10% NOx resp. 6% SOxcompared to the BF-route) in the market today. The promise of reducing the carbon footprint of iron making is alluring indeed, especially when “zero-carbon” has become a buzzword in the industry. It wouldn’t be incorrect to assume that technologies such as Finex would help us reach that goal incrementally, if not in one big leap.
Bright future in India
Experts are upbeat about the potential of implementing the technology in India. Experts at Primetals believe that a typical minimum size Finex plant should be in the magnitude of 600,000 t/a to 800,000 t/a production. This makes the technology ideal for the hundreds of mini mills currently in operation in emerging markets like India.
Christian Boehm, Head of Sales Direct and Smelting Reduction, Primetals Technologies, Austria, told SteelMint: “Being a growing market, having plenty of low-grade iron ore available (which is difficult to be used in the BF due to the elevated Al2O3 content) and with tightening of environmental laws, Primetalsdefinitely considers Finex to be a part of the Indian steel industry in the future. In addition to the advantages of the process, by using synergies between Finex technology and the existing BF route (e.g. optimum use of the different grain sizes of coke available in the optimum aggregates) many still available possibilities can be further realized. Finexoffers the chance to save operation costs in areas where no operator has considered operation cost reduction possibilities – of course, always being in compliance with environmental regulations.”
SteelVia – The Global Steel Innovations Forum
Industry insiders would surely be piqued to explore the possibilities of enhancing the performance of integrated steel plants by an ingenious combination of Finex technology and the traditional yet tried-and-tested blast furnace. Book your seat at SteelVia – the global steel innovations podium – where Christian Boehm would lay bare the nitty-gritty of the disruptive technology.