Rio Tinto targets low-carbon steel production with new technology
Over the past decade,
If this and larger-scale tests are successful, there is the potential over time for this technology to be scaled commercially to process Rio Tinto’s iron ore fines.
“More than 70 per cent of Rio Tinto’s Scope 3 emissions are generated as customers process our iron ore into steel, which is critical for urbanisation and infrastructure development as the world’s economies decarbonise. So, while it’s still early days and there is a lot more research and other work to do, we are keen to explore further development of this technology.”
Rio Tinto’s process uses plant matter known as lignocellulosic biomass, instead of coal, primarily as a chemical reductant. The biomass is blended with iron ore and heated by a combination of gas released by the biomass and high efficiency microwaves that can be powered by renewable energy.
The University’s Head of Department, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Professor
The use of raw biomass in Rio Tinto’s process could also avoid the inefficiencies and associated costs of other biomass-based technologies that first convert the biomass into charcoal or biogas.
Lignocellulosic biomass includes agriculture by-products (i.e. wheat straw, corn stover, barley straw, sugar cane bagasse) and purpose-grown crops, which would be sustainable sources for the process.
Importantly, the process cannot use foods such as sugar or corn, and
If developed further, the technology would be accompanied by a robust and independently accredited certification process for sustainable sources of biomass.
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