Steel industry garners major DOE grant to test reduced-CO2 ironmaking

Sources: American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), Washington, D.C.; CP staff

An $8.9 million, three-year AISI project will target a process geared to lowering by up to 50 percent the carbon dioxide emissions of current production methods for iron, a key component of steel.

The process is based on the direct gaseous reduction of fine iron concentrates. The research budget includes a $7.1 million Department of Energy Innovative Manufacturing Initiative grant, with AISI members contributing the remaining $1.8 million.

“Our collaborative research with the Department goes back more than 20 years and is an important factor in why the [U.S.] steel industry has the lowest energy intensity in the world,” says AISI President Thomas Gibson. “We look forward to working with our [research] partners and member companies to keep U.S. manufacturers at the forefront of advances in steelmaking.

“This research builds on three years of lab testing at the University of Utah and takes advantage of our country’s abundant natural gas reserves. The ability to use natural gas now and hydrogen in the future in this process offers great potential.”

“The development of new steelmaking technology is critical to maintaining the domestic steel industry’s global competitiveness and improving its energy efficiency,” adds Congressman Pete Visclosky (D-IN-1). “I commend AISI’s continued efforts in this regard and thank DOE for supporting research and fostering technological advances in domestic manufacturing, which remains one of the most important drivers of our economy and provides millions of workers with good-paying jobs.”

The project was one of 13 selected out of 1,400-plus letters of intent, 1,200 concept papers, and more than 250 full applications DOE evaluated under the Innovative Manufacturing Initiative. Department officials describe the selected projects as vehicles “to advance transformational technologies and materials that can help American manufacturers dramatically increase the energy efficiency of their operations and reduce costs.”

AISI cites a long history of investing in the development of advanced technologies by focusing on process modeling and control and new process development all toward improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and heightening the domestic steel industry’s competitiveness. Together, the steel industry and DOE have invested over $70 million on collaborative research programs.

“While our industry’s energy and CO2 reduction achievements—27 percent and 33 percent, respectively—since 1990 are significant, we must continue to invest in high-risk, high reward research to meet the challenges posed by our international competition and by competing materials,” Gibson contends.