BlueScope Steel and iron ore producers BHP and Rio Tinto have entered a partnership that could see the construction of a low emission Electric Smelting Facility (ESF) pilot plant which could cut carbon emissions in the steelmaking process by 80 percent.
The ESF is capable of producing iron suitable for the basic oxygen steelmaking (BOS) process.
Iron ore is first converted to direct reduced iron (DRI) before being charged into the ESF.
Under a new framework agreement, Rio Tinto, BHP and BlueScope will consolidate the work each party has completed to date, leveraging both BHP’s and Rio Tinto’s knowledge of iron ores with BlueScope’s operating experience.
BlueScope Chief Executive Australia Tania Archibald (pictured) said: “We believe DRI is the most prospective technology to decarbonise our Australian business.
“The development of ESF technology is key to unlocking Australia’s unique advantages in this decarbonisation journey – and, more importantly, has the potential for wider adaptation across the global steel industry.”
The companies said that if successful, the technology could help open a potential pathway to near-zero greenhouse gas emission-intensity operations for steelmakers that rely on Australian iron ore to meet global steel demand.
The parties will assess several locations in Australia for the proposed pilot facility, and will consider factors like supporting infrastructure, available workforce, access to target industry and supply chain partners, and suitability for operational trials.
A pre-feasibility study work programme is expected to conclude at year-end. If approved, the pilot facility could be commissioned as early as 2027.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Simon Trott said: “We firmly believe the best way to tackle a challenge of this scale is through collaboration with industry.
“Importantly, this new agreement will leverage the more than two years of work we have already completed with BlueScope on this technology.”
Picture: Tania Archibald