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The Future of Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI)



Source: internal company

As the reality of carbon neutrality unfolds as a global trend and the pressure for net-zero carbon initiatives increases, it is clear that, despite these developments, the global economy cannot do without steel as a versatile material. In its Steel Technology Roadmap 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a 10% increase in global steel demand by 2050, noting that steel is deeply entrenched in our society, from buildings to infrastructure and transportation. The report also notes that many net-zero energy transition technologies rely heavily on steel, such as wind turbine solar panels and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Given the projected growth in demand, coupled with increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions, the industry is looking for efficient, adaptable and low-carbon solutions to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. As these projections confront the current state of the steel industry, several aspects of future strategy emerge:

• Decrease in integrated steel production (using blast furnaces and alkaline oxygen furnaces)
• Increase in electric steelmaking (using electric arc furnaces)
• Increase in the use of scrap
• Increase in the use of direct reduction, production of direct reduced iron (DRI) and especially hot briquetted iron (HBI)

1. Advantages of HBI

• HBI replaces conventional pig iron for primary steel production and can also supplement lower grade scrap to achieve higher grade steel products.
• Adding HBI to lower-quality scrap can dilute metal impurities common in steelmaking from scrap and even produce flat steel products.
• It is less prone to re-oxidation and can be easily produced in regions where raw materials are abundant and energy costs are low.
• Under a carbon pricing scheme coupled with the trade barrier of a carbon border tax, gas-based HBI with a significantly lower carbon footprint than traditional blast furnace iron is more competitive.

2. Potential for HBI development in China
In order to fully utilize the potential of DRI, production needs to be increased and new HBI plants need to be built. New HBI plants should be located in areas with access to iron ore and natural gas or hydrogen. China is not rich in natural gas but has abundant iron ore resources. China is the country that stands out in the race for carbon neutrality and HBI capability. Strong EAF steelmaking capacity but insufficient HBI capacity: China has no HBI plants and has invested heavily in EAF capacity over the last few years. In addition, China has announced a net-zero target for 2060. As the world's largest steel producer, China will not be able to achieve its goal with scrap alone, which is already in short supply. Instead, investment and expansion in electric furnace steelmaking will require increased commercial HBI.

3. Green metallurgy and the future
Looking to the future, Midrex Technologies and Primetals Technologies can produce high-quality HBI using the most environmentally friendly ore-based ironmaking technology, the natural gas-based MIDREX direct reduction process, which releases 50% less carbon emissions than blast furnace ironmaking. Combining this technology with green hydrogen has the potential to further reduce carbon emissions.

With a long history of HBI plant construction, Midrex Technologies and PrimetalsTechnologies have successfully implemented plants around the world to meet the growing demand for commercial HBI. With a reputation for future-proof innovation, the newest plants can be adapted to use hydrogen as a reducing agent in any range up to 100% once this green energy source becomes economically viable.

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