Rio Tinto and BHP are set to partner with Australia’s largest steelmaker BlueScope for the development of the country’s first ironmaking electric smelting furnace (ESF) pilot plant.
The companies will assess several locations in Australia for the proposed pilot facility, considering factors like supporting infrastructure and the available workforce.
“This partnership will benefit from Rio Tinto’s and BHP’s unrivalled experience of Pilbara ores as well as the technical steelmaking capability and unique operating knowledge of BlueScope,” Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said.
“We are excited to add this partnership to the suite of projects we have underway with our customers and suppliers to find better ways to accelerate their efforts to meet their decarbonisation targets.”
The project aims to demonstrate that production of molten iron from Pilbara ores is feasible using renewable power when combined with direct reduced iron (DRI) process technology.
“Combining our expertise, we hope to help fast track near-zero emission-intensity pathways for steelmakers using Pilbara ores,” BHP WAIO asset president Tim Day said.
“Technology pathways compatible with renewable energy and scalable to the order of hundreds of millions of tonnes of steel production would be a major step forward in setting up Pilbara ores, and the world, for a low greenhouse gas emission future.”
A pre-feasibility study work program is expected to conclude by the end of 2024. If approved, the pilot facility could be commissioned as early as 2027.
“DRI is the most prospective technology to decarbonise our Australian business, and the development of ESF technology is key to unlocking Australia’s unique advantages in this decarbonisation journey,” BlueScope chief executive Australia Tania Archibald said.
“We believe that this collaboration where we can contribute BlueScope’s unique experience in operating an ESF will be key to cracking the code for Pilbara ores in low emission-intensity ironmaking.”
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