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DOE awarding $37M to 7 projects decarbonizing iron and steel

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $37 million to 7 projects focused on decarbonization opportunities in iron and steel production, including innovative manufacturing technologies to enable decarbonization; electrification of existing manufacturing processes; overcoming challenges associated with utilizing hydrogen in steelmaking; and addressing scrap contaminants in recycling.

The iron and steel awards are part of a larger award package of $171 million for 49 projects across 21 states to reduce industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and accelerate the development of innovative decarbonization technologies. DOE also announced that applications are open for an $83 million funding opportunity to decrease emissions from hard-to-decarbonize industrial sectors. (DE-FOA-0003219)

The seven projects in the iron and steel topic area include:

ASPEN LEAF: Achieving Stable Performance and Emission Neutrality over Lifetime of Electric Arc Furnace; NREL; $3,849,184. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and its partners (Nucor, Arizona State University, Biochar Now, Ensyn, Graftech) aim to develop technological solutions to the direct emission sources during EAF steelmaking.

The innovative strategies that will be pursued include carbon-neutral combustion fuels produced via carbon looping technology, biomass sourced injection material, and replacement of needle coke and incorporation of biomass-sourced pitch in electrode production.

NREL and its partners plan to demonstrate these technologies at pilot scale, as well as with the use of alternative injection carbon in a commercial EAF. If successful, all major carbon emission sources from EAF steelmaking will have a feasible route to decarbonization, enabling deep decarbonization of arc furnace steelmaking in the order of 80% compared with conventional processing.

Decarbonized Iron Electrowinning Enabled by Oxide-ion Stabilized Anode in Molten Salts; Penn State, $720,000. The Pennsylvania State University aims to demonstrate the feasibility of utilizing liquid metal anode technology in the electrolytic production of iron from ore in a molten sulfide electrolysis (MSE) system. The team—which includes Modular Chemical— will explore electrolyte and anode material design to develop an anode that is stable under production conditions.

The team will target the specific challenge of anode stability in the MSE process through this novel, molten anode approach to de-risk scale of up MSE ironmaking. MSE is an emerging alternative ironmaking process capable of reducing iron ore to useable metallic iron using only electricity instead of conventional carbon-based reductants. When combined with a renewable electricity source, MSE could enable deep decarbonization of the ironmaking portion in the steelmaking process, which is by far the most carbon intensive process step. The lower reaction temperatures in MSE compared with conventional blast furnace ironmaking and molten oxide electrolysis also offer potential energy intensity reductions.

Decarbonizing EAF Steelmaking by Using CO2-sourced Graphite Electrodes in EAF Steelmaking, Seerstone Development, $8,888,183. Seerstone Development LLC and its partners (Sekisui Chemical, Tokai Carbon, Nucor) aim to undertake a first-of-its-kind demonstration of electrodes produced using CO2 sourced precursors at industrial scale.

Instead of utilizing the currently dominant method of fossil-based carbon, the team will develop a process for the production of a carbon-based precursor using carbon looping technology to recover carbon matter from a CO2-rich gas stream. Upon completion of analysis into the effects of substituting fossil-based needle coke for this new material, the team will produce production scale electrodes containing CO2 sourced material and trial them in-situ on a ladle furnace at a production facility. The technology has the potential to deeply reduce the graphite electrode-based emissions of EAF steelmaking, as well as secondary steelmaking through the displacement of carbon intensive needle coke via a cost-competitive and renewable source.

Demonstration of a SOEC Hydrogen Direct Reduction (HDR) at the Toledo, OH Steel Plant, University of Wisconsin-Madison (funded by HFTO), $10,000,000. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and its partners (University of California Irvine, Laboratoria Energia Ambiente Piacenza, FuelCell Energy Inc, Politecnico di Milano, Electric Power Research Institute, Cleveland Cliffs, SoCalGas) aim to demonstrate a first-of-a-kind integration of a solid oxide electrolyzer cell (SOEC) with an industrial direct reduction (DR) shaft furnace.

SOEC integration with a shaft furnace offers a unique opportunity to reintegrate waste heat from shaft furnace off-gas into hydrogen generation. This hydrogen can be reutilized in the reduction process to produce direct reduced iron/hot briquetted iron. Additionally, a SOEC does not require scarce platinum group metal catalysts for hydrogen production. The technology aims to demonstrate at least 90% GHG emissions reduction potential for DR ironmaking at a production capacity of 1.6 million tons per year.

Iron Production by Molten Sulfide Electrolysis, MIT, $5,620,060. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to demonstrate primary iron production via its novel molten sulfide electrolysis (MSE) process at a scale of 250 kg/day.

The process involves directly reducing iron from the sulfide form into elemental iron using electricity to provide the heat and reducing potential to drive the process. MSE will generate a liquid iron product similar to a blast furnace, but without the requirement for metallurgical coke and coal to reduce iron carbothermically. When powered using renewable energy, this process can potentially slash ironmaking emissions, which is the single most emissions-intensive step in steel production.

Compared with other ironmaking processes, the removal of copper is thermodynamically feasible under MSE conditions, meaning that the refining of copper from the iron materials cycle may be a possibility. At the pilot scale, MIT will demonstrate the MSE process to validate an ironmaking production process with the potential to reduce CO2 emissions of ironmaking by up to 87% and reduce energy consumption compared to incumbent blast furnace ironmaking.

Ore Electrolysis in Seawater for the Production of Iron Alloys for Steelmaking, University of Oregon, $733,689. The University of Oregon aims to demonstrate a novel alternative ironmaking process at a scale of 1 kg iron-/hour based on the principals of aqueous electrowinning using seawater as the electrolyte.

The team, including NETL, Oregon State University, and De Nora Tech LLC, is looking to reimagine the established chlor-alkali process for chlorine production to reduce iron oxide from ore into metallic iron. This directly electrified ‘chlor-iron’ process reduces ore to metal with no direct CO2 emissions at low temperatures but, due to the seawater electrolyte, also co-produces sodium hydroxide and chlorine, two high volume commodity chemicals. When operated using renewable electricity, the process delivers deep decarbonization potential. However, even on existing low carbon grids, the process can reduce ironmaking emissions by approximately 70% and operate intermittently to best utilize renewable energy.

Technical Development and Industrial Demonstration of Net-Zero Carbon EAF Steelmaking with Alternative Injection and Stirring Technologies, Purdue University Northwest, $7,158,034. Through industrial trials, Purdue University Northwest and its partners (Nucor Corp, Linde Inc, Carnegie Mellon University) aim to demonstrate a range of alternative stirring, oxidation, and foaming technologies in a commercial scale electric arc furnace (EAF).

The team will develop novel gas injection technologies aimed at delivering low carbon reducing gases deep into the steel bath, utilize ‘soft’ oxidation technologies (such as CO2 to enable efficient mixing), develop alternative foaming agents, and ultimately culminate in a first-of-a-kind demonstration of EAF steelmaking using no fossil-carbon injectants supplemented by electromagnetic stirring technology. EAF steelmaking is dominant in the U.S. and the elimination of fossil carbon injection in its processing will reduce direct emissions by 40%. The project includes the development of an integrated virtual electric arc furnace (IVEAF) platform to give steelmakers the tools to optimize their own processes and achieve widespread emissions reductions.


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