New technologies and cheaper energy are driving a revival in
alternative iron units, such as direct-reduced iron (DRI) and
hot-briquetted iron (HBI), according to panelists at the Steel
Success Strategies XXVIII conference in New York.
"A number of factors
have brought about the possible rebirth of direct reduction in
North America," Thomas Scarnati, manager of marketing and sales
at Tenova Hyl, a subsidiary of Milan-based Tenova SpA, said at
the event, sponsored by AMM and World Steel Dynamics
Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
prices from shale gas, accessible iron ore supplies and
technological advancements all work as incentives for
steelmakers to invest in the upstream innovations, he said.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp. is gearing up to commission
its 2.5-million ton-per-year DRI plant in Louisiana
(amm.com, April 19).
The renewed interest
is a 180-degree turn from the situation a decade ago, according
"Many plants shut down
because they could not operate profitably, partially due to
high natural gas prices," he said. "Iron plants were mothballed
or shipped elsewhere."
advances have made alternative iron plants more user-friendly,
a simple plant operation," he said. "There is less to go wrong,
and it is a more efficient and controlled process. You can
control the level of carbon."
Other factors are
playing into the attraction among steelmakers, according to an
executive at Charlotte-based Midrex Technologies Inc.
"The steel industry is
seeing renewed interest in DRI and (HBI), and it is not just
the shale gas phenomena," Midrex director of marketing Henry O.
Gaines Jr. said.
Gaines attributed that
interest in part to environmental concerns. "We see this as an
expanding market because by using HBI in the blast furnace, we
are able to reduce the amount of coke that is used and also
lower the amount of emissions that are being thrown," he said.
"It is a clean technology."
Other technologies are
now available that rely on coal instead of natural gas as the
primary source of energy, Gaines said, noting that more
breakthroughs are in the works and Midrex is working to use
coke oven gas as part of the process for integrated