BUSINESS: Rio Tinto Aims To Produce Low-Carbon Steel With New Technology

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

by Daniel Webster, dWeb.News Publisher

MELBOURNE, Australia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Rio Tinto is progressing an innovative new technology to deliver low-carbon steel, using sustainable biomass in place of coking coal in the steelmaking process, in a potentially cost-effective option to cut industry carbon emissions.

Over the past decade, Rio Tinto has developed a laboratory-proven process that combines the use of raw, sustainable biomass with microwave technology to convert iron ore to metallic iron during the steelmaking process. This patent-pending process is one of many avenues that the company is exploring to reduce carbon emissions in the steel value-chain. It is currently being tested in a pilot plant.

This technology could be commercially scaled to Rio Tinto’s iron mine fines if it is successful in larger-scale trials.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief executive Simon Trott stated, “We are encouraged to see early testing results of the new process. If this and larger-scale tests are successful, there is potential over time for this technology to be scaled commercially to process Rio Tinto’s iron ore fines. It’s early days, and there’s still a lot of research and other work to be done, but we are eager to explore further development. Rio Tinto uses plant matter, known as lignocellulosic biomass, to reduce the use of coal. The biomass is mixed with iron ore, and heated using a mixture of high-efficiency microwaves and gas from the biomass. This combination can also be used to power renewable energy.

Rio Tinto researchers have been working closely with the multidisciplinary team at the University of Nottingham’s Microwave Process Engineering Group in order to develop the process.

Professor Chris Dodds from the University of Nottingham’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering said that the use of raw biomass in Rio Tinto’s process could reduce the inefficiencies and associated cost of other biomass-based technologies, which first convert the biomass to charcoal or biogas.

Lignocellulosic biomass includes agricultural by-products, i.e.

Lignocellulosic biomass includes agriculture by-products (i.e. wheat straw, corn stover and barley straw, as well as sugar cane bagasse), which are sustainable sources.

It is important to note that the process does not include sugar or corn and Rio Tinto will not use biomass sources that encourage the logging of old growth forests.

Simon Trott stated, “We are aware of the complex issues surrounding biomass sourcing and use. There is still a lot to be done for this to be truly sustainable for steelmaking.” We will continue to work with others to understand these concerns and the availability sustainable biomass.”

The technology could be further developed by an independent certification process for sustainable biomass sources.

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