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Misconceptions, risks surround DRI: Bradford

Keywords: Tags  iron making, direct-reduced iron, DRI, costs, scrap, natural gas, Charles Bradford, Bradford Research Corinna Petry

NEW YORK — While direct-reduced iron (DRI) is "what everyone is talking about," there are many misconceptions about the product, Bradford Research Inc. president Charles Bradford said June 18 on the sidelines of the Steel Success Strategies XXVIII conference in New York.

"You can’t just stick (DRI in any furnace). There are limitations for its use," Bradford said at the event, sponsored by AMM and Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based World Steel Dynamics Inc.

Various analyses sometimes overlook the cost of building a DRI plant, which has a shorter lifespan than other ironmaking processes, has greater maintenance requirements, and carries capital depreciation and borrowing costs, he said.

Generally, building a DRI plant in North America "is a risk. ... Have all of those considering it properly assessed those risks?" Bradford asked, noting that DRI is most useful where cheap natural gas is available to fuel the product’s production process and where there is limited scrap generation.

DRI might be more at home in the Middle East, where scrap is scarce because of limited industrial development, than it is in North America, where scrap is plentiful, he said.

A DRI plant needs to be located near the melt shop because the material is pyrophoric and inherently unstable. "Boats are known to have burned to the water line," Bradford said.

Another misconception, according to Bradford, is that DRI and scrap can be compared directly. "It’s like apples and oranges. DRI is not freight delivered, it’s f.o.b. the mill," while scrap is quoted delivered.

Some individuals have also failed to assess a "value-in-use penalty" for DRI, which consumes more electricity and electrodes in the melting process, he said.

DRI "also slows down the furnace," Bradford said, estimating a $40-per-ton penalty compared with melting pig iron and a $30-per-ton penalty compared with scrap. Pig iron contains more carbon, which burns faster at standard power usage.

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