Geotab report finds number of EV commercial vehicles in the US increased by 81% in 2023
RIKEN researchers develop new method to reduce amount of iridium in electrolyzers

Argonne launching project to decarbonize iron production; microwave-powered hydrogen plasma in a rotary kiln furnace

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy recently announced $28 million in funding under the Revolutionizing Ore to Steel to Impact Emissions program. (Earlier post.) The DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory will be receiving $3 million over three years in one of the 13 new projects for this program. Argonne’s partners include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University Northwest, Starfire Industries and ArcelorMittal.

As part of the typical steelmaking process today, blast furnaces reduce iron ore to iron in a reaction of iron ore with coke and limestone at very high temperatures, about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. This production via blast furnaces accounts for about 70% of CO2 emissions from steel production.

The team’s alternative is a microwave-powered hydrogen plasma in a rotary kiln furnace. The hydrogen plasma allows this reduction to take place at much lower temperatures, under 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The microwave power permits tuning of the plasma properties for efficient energy usage. Typically used in cement production, the rotary kiln furnace eliminates the need for heating the iron ore and forming pellets, also lowering the energy requirement. The culmination of these advances promises a 50% reduction in energy consumption compared with conventional blast furnaces.

The technology itself would have zero CO2 emissions, but it would require electricity to operate. And the grid producing the electricity would be emitting CO2. However, even under current grid conditions, the team estimates a notable 35% reduction in CO2 emissions compared with conventional blast furnaces. This reduction could rise to an impressive 88% with the transition to a future low-carbon grid powered by renewable energy sources.

A project goal is to demonstrate ​“proof of concept” with an impure ore—taconite—at the bench scale, that is, 10 kilograms of iron produced in a day. Success would pave the way for securing funding for a pilot-scale demonstration, many times the bench-scale rate. Looking further ahead, the team will be modeling their technology’s scalability to industrial production of over 15 million metric tons per year.



Reducing the amount of relatively expensive green hydrogen needed improves the economics and practicality.

Just a note that, as Adam Smith would have known, much of the supposed costings of fossil fuels versus renewables and nuclear are fake.

That is because the costs of climate warming etc are externalised, but remain real. Smith and other proper capitalists were well aware that functioning capitalism is wholly dependent on not allowing interested parties to conspire together against the public good, as he put it.

What we actually have is an elitist oligarchy, who substitute rentier behaviour for proper productive investment.

Building condos as Air bnbs to inflate the property market beyond what people can actually afford to buy to live in does not increase the productive capacity of society, it just results in real production ending up in China, and the goods then being transported half way across the world with more emissions, whilst the elite jet off to have climate change conferences in amongst the skiing, using tax free fossil fuels to do so.

The notion that it is uneconomic to use green hydrogen, especially more efficiently as in this process, is wholly dependent on the true costs of fossil fuel production of steel being fiddled.

The comments to this entry are closed.