NEW YORK Midrex Technologies Inc. expects direct-reduced iron (DRI) output in the United States to surpass 10 million tons annually "sometime near the end of the decade," director of marketing Henry P. Gaines said.
The proliferation of DRI production technologies will see global output reach between 110 million and 120 million tons annually by 2020, Gaines said at the Steel Success Strategies XXIX conference in New York sponsored by AMM and World Steel Dynamics Inc. Global DRI production totaled 75.2 million tons last year, up 2.8 percent from 2012 (amm.com, June 12), with U.S. output accounting for just 1.3 million tons in 2013.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Midrexs technology accounted for 63.2 percent of the DRI produced worldwide last year, up from 61.2 percent of global production in 2012. The market for DRI and hot-briquetted iron (HBI) "continues to grow" with the advancement of technologies facilitating the use of the material in steel production, Gaines said, noting that electric-arc furnaces are capable of producing grades of steel "that 10 years ago no one would have considered."
The exploitation of shale gas in the United States has made the country the worlds largest natural gas producer and facilitated the advancement of DRI use in the domestic steel industry, according to Pablo Duarte, commercial vice president of Milan-based Tenova SpA subsidiary Tenova HYL.
With natural gas an integral part of the DRI production processand with natural gas prices in the United States at one-third the level in Europe and one-fifth the price in JapanDRI has become an "extremely attractive" proposition for U.S. steelmakers, Duarte said, citing Charlotte-based Nucor Corp.s ramp-up of its DRI facility in St. James Parish, La. (amm.com, April 25), which utilizes Tenovas Energiron DRI technology.
Conference speakers also presented developments in technology meant to facilitate DRI production in regions without readily available or affordable natural gas.
Pravin C. Mathur, global market director of metals, metal processing and combustion markets at Danbury, Conn.-based Praxair Inc., described his companys thermal reactor system, which allows DRI production in such regions using coke-oven gas with a hot oxygen burner, while Philippe Blostein, metals marketing director at Paris-based Air Liquide SA, outlined his companys coal gasification method for DRI production, which relies on coal to facilitate production while also offering cost reductions.