BHP is building a solution to its green steel conundrum

Jimblebar, one of seven iron ore mines BHP operates in the Pilbara. (Image courtesy of AGC)

Mining giant BHP Group Ltd. is designing a steelmaking furnace that can be used with the lower-grade iron ore found in Australia, while also cutting carbon emissions.

The company is working with engineering consultancy Hatch Ltd. to design a pilot plant that uses an electric smelting furnace, according to a statement from BHP. The aim will be to demonstrate a new route to greener steelmaking, using the iron ore produced at the firm’s mines in Pilbara, Australia.

Steelmakers have been using a combination of hydrogen and electric-arc furnaces to decarbonize their production, which currently relies mainly on coal-fired blast furnaces. But those approaches require a higher grade of iron ore than that which predominates in Australia, the world’s top producer.

“We see the ESF process as a critical breakthrough in significantly reducing the carbon emissions intensity of steel production and one that provides an opportunity for iron ore from our Pilbara mines,” said Vandita Pant, BHP’s chief commercial officer.

Additional high-grade supply will eventually be mined at Simandou, a massive project in Guinea run by rival Australian firm Rio Tinto Group and its Chinese partners. Otherwise, making iron ore sufficiently pure involves processes that add to the already high costs of green steelmaking.

(By Eddie Spence)


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