# Direct reduced iron

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Direct reduced iron (DRI), also called sponge iron, [1] is produced from the direct reduction of iron ore (in the form of lumps, pellets, or fines) into iron by a reducing gas or elemental carbon produced from natural gas or coal. Many ores are suitable for direct reduction.

## Contents

Direct reduction refers to solid-state processes which reduce iron oxides to metallic iron at temperatures below the melting point of iron. Reduced iron derives its name from these processes, one example being heating iron ore in a furnace at a high temperature of 800 to 1,200 °C (1,470 to 2,190 °F) in the presence of the reducing gas syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. [2]

## Process

Direct reduction processes can be divided roughly into two categories: gas-based, and coal-based. In both cases, the objective of the process is to remove the oxygen contained in various forms of iron ore (sized ore, concentrates, pellets, mill scale, furnace dust, etc.), in order to convert the ore to metallic iron, without melting it (below 1,200 °C (2,190 °F)).

The direct reduction process is comparatively energy efficient. Steel made using DRI requires significantly less fuel, in that a traditional blast furnace is not needed. DRI is most commonly made into steel using electric arc furnaces to take advantage of the heat produced by the DRI product. [3]

### Benefits

Direct reduction processes were developed to overcome the difficulties of conventional blast furnaces. DRI plants need not be part of an integrated steel plant, as is characteristic of blast furnaces. The initial capital investment and operating costs of direct reduction plants are lower than integrated steel plants and are more suitable for developing countries where supplies of high grade coking coal are limited, but where steel scrap is generally available for recycling. India is the world’s largest producer of direct-reduced iron. [4] Many other countries use variants of the process.

Factors that help make DRI economical:

• Direct-reduced iron has about the same iron content as pig iron, typically 90–94% total iron (depending on the quality of the raw ore) so it is an excellent feedstock for the electric furnaces used by mini mills, allowing them to use lower grades of scrap for the rest of the charge or to produce higher grades of steel.
• Hot-briquetted iron (HBI) is a compacted form of DRI designed for ease of shipping, handling, and storage.
• Hot direct reduced iron (HDRI) is DRI that is transported hot, directly from the reduction furnace, into an electric arc furnace, thereby saving energy.
• The direct reduction process uses pelletized iron ore or natural "lump" ore. One exception is the fluidized bed process which requires sized iron ore particles.
• The direct reduction process can use natural gas contaminated with inert gases, avoiding the need to remove these gases for other use. However, any inert gas contamination of the reducing gas lowers the effect (quality) of that gas stream and the thermal efficiency of the process.
• Supplies of powdered ore and raw natural gas are both available in areas such as Northern Australia, avoiding transport costs for the gas. In most cases the DRI plant is located near a natural gas source as it is more cost effective to ship the ore rather than the gas.
• The DRI method produces 97% pure iron.
• To eliminate fossil fuel use in iron and steel making, renewable hydrogen gas can be used in place of syngas to produce DRI. [5]

### Problems

Direct reduced iron is highly susceptible to oxidation and rusting if left unprotected, and is normally quickly processed further to steel.[ citation needed ] The bulk iron can also catch fire since it is pyrophoric. [6] Unlike blast furnace pig iron, which is almost pure metal, DRI contains some siliceous gangue (if made from scrap, not from new iron from direct reduced iron with natural gas), which needs to be removed in the steel-making process.

## History

Producing sponge iron and then working it was the earliest method used to obtain iron in the Middle East, Egypt, and Europe, where it remained in use until at least the 16th century. There is some evidence that the bloomery method was also used in China, but China had developed blast furnaces to obtain pig iron by 500 BCE.

The advantage of the bloomery technique is that iron can be obtained at a lower furnace temperature, only about 1,100 °C or so. The disadvantage, relative to a blast furnace, is that only small quantities can be made at a time.

## Chemistry

The following reactions successively convert hematite (from iron ore) into magnetite, magnetite into ferrous oxide, and ferrous oxide into iron by reduction with carbon monoxide or hydrogen. [7]

${\displaystyle {\ce {3 Fe2O3 + CO/H2 -> 2 Fe3O4 + CO2/H2O}}}$
${\displaystyle {\ce {Fe3O4 + CO/H2 -> 3 FeO + CO2/H2O}}}$
${\displaystyle {\ce {FeO + CO/H2 -> Fe + CO2/H2O}}}$

Carburizing produces cementite:

${\displaystyle {\ce {3 Fe + CH4 -> Fe3C + 2H2}}}$
${\displaystyle {\ce {3 Fe + 2CO -> Fe3C + CO2}}}$
${\displaystyle {\ce {3 Fe + CO +H2 -> Fe3C + H2O}}}$

## Uses

Sponge iron is not useful by itself, but can be processed to create wrought iron or steel. The sponge is removed from the furnace, called a bloomery, and repeatedly beaten with heavy hammers and folded over to remove the slag, oxidise any carbon or carbide, and weld the iron together. This treatment usually creates wrought iron with about three percent slag and a fraction of a percent of other impurities. Further treatment may add controlled amounts of carbon, allowing various kinds of heat treatment (e.g. "steeling").

Today, sponge iron is created by reducing iron ore without melting it. This makes for an energy-efficient feedstock for specialty steel manufacturers which used to rely upon scrap metal.

## Related Research Articles

Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including silver, iron, copper, and other base metals. Smelting uses heat and a chemical reducing agent to decompose the ore, driving off other elements as gases or slag and leaving the metal base behind. The reducing agent is commonly a fossil fuel source of carbon, such as coke—or, in earlier times, charcoal. The oxygen in the ore binds to carbon at high temperatures due to the lower potential energy of the bonds in carbon dioxide. Smelting most prominently takes place in a blast furnace to produce pig iron, which is converted into steel.

Coke is a grey, hard, and porous fuel with a high carbon content and few impurities, made by heating coal or oil in the absence of air—a destructive distillation process. It is an important industrial product, used mainly in iron ore smelting, but also as a fuel in stoves and forges when air pollution is a concern.

Iron ores are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The ores are usually rich in iron oxides and vary in color from dark grey, bright yellow, or deep purple to rusty red. The iron is usually found in the form of magnetite (Fe
3
O
4
, 72.4% Fe), hematite (Fe
2
O
3
, 69.9% Fe), goethite (FeO(OH), 62.9% Fe), limonite (FeO(OH)·n(H2O), 55% Fe) or siderite (FeCO3, 48.2% Fe).

Steelmaking is the process of producing steel from iron ore and/or scrap. In steelmaking, impurities such as nitrogen, silicon, phosphorus, sulfur and excess carbon are removed from the sourced iron, and alloying elements such as manganese, nickel, chromium, carbon and vanadium are added to produce different grades of steel. Limiting dissolved gases such as nitrogen and oxygen and entrained impurities in the steel is also important to ensure the quality of the products cast from the liquid steel.

Syngas, or synthetic gas, is a fuel gas mixture consisting primarily of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and very often some carbon dioxide. The name comes from its use as intermediates in creating synthetic natural gas (SNG) and for producing ammonia or methanol. Syngas is usually a product of coal gasification and the main application is electricity generation. Syngas is combustible and can be used as a fuel of internal combustion engines. Historically, it has been used as a replacement for gasoline, when gasoline supply has been limited; for example, wood gas was used to power cars in Europe during WWII. However, it has less than half the energy density of natural gas.

A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally pig iron, but also others such as lead or copper. Blast refers to the combustion air being "forced" or supplied above atmospheric pressure.

Industrial processes are procedures involving chemical, physical, electrical or mechanical steps to aid in the manufacturing of an item or items, usually carried out on a very large scale. Industrial processes are the key components of heavy industry.

Bog iron is a form of impure iron deposit that develops in bogs or swamps by the chemical or biochemical oxidation of iron carried in solution. In general, bog ores consist primarily of iron oxyhydroxides, commonly goethite.

A steel mill or steelworks is an industrial plant for the manufacture of steel. It may be an integrated steel works carrying out all steps of steelmaking from smelting iron ore to rolled product, but may also be a plant where steel semi-finished casting products are made from molten pig iron or from scrap.

Iron(II,III) oxide is the chemical compound with formula Fe3O4. It occurs in nature as the mineral magnetite. It is one of a number of iron oxides, the others being iron(II) oxide (FeO), which is rare, and iron(III) oxide (Fe2O3) which also occurs naturally as the mineral hematite. It contains both Fe2+ and Fe3+ ions and is sometimes formulated as FeO ∙ Fe2O3. This iron oxide is encountered in the laboratory as a black powder. It exhibits permanent magnetism and is ferrimagnetic, but is sometimes incorrectly described as ferromagnetic. Its most extensive use is as a black pigment. For this purpose, it is synthesized rather than being extracted from the naturally occurring mineral as the particle size and shape can be varied by the method of production.

A bloomery is a type of furnace once used widely for smelting iron from its oxides. The bloomery was the earliest form of smelter capable of smelting iron. Bloomeries produce a porous mass of iron and slag called a bloom. The mix of slag and iron in the bloom, termed sponge iron, is usually consolidated and further forged into wrought iron. Blast furnaces, which produce pig iron, have largely superseded bloomeries.

In the mining industry or extractive metallurgy, beneficiation is any process that improves (benefits) the economic value of the ore by removing the gangue minerals, which results in a higher grade product and a waste stream (tailings). There are many different types of beneficiation, with each step furthering the concentration of the original ore.

Decarburization is the process opposite to carburization, namely the reduction of carbon content.

An Ellingham diagramis a graph showing the temperature dependence of the stability of compounds. This analysis is usually used to evaluate the ease of reduction of metal oxides and sulfides. These diagrams were first constructed by Harold Ellingham in 1944. In metallurgy, the Ellingham diagram is used to predict the equilibrium temperature between a metal, its oxide, and oxygen — and by extension, reactions of a metal with sulfur, nitrogen, and other non-metals. The diagrams are useful in predicting the conditions under which an ore will be reduced to its metal. The analysis is thermodynamic in nature and ignores reaction kinetics. Thus, processes that are predicted to be favourable by the Ellingham diagram can still be slow.

Mobarakeh Steel Company is an Iranian steel company, located 65 km south west of Esfahan, near the city of Mobarakeh, Esfahan Province, Iran. It is the largest steel maker of MENA region, and one of the largest industrial complexes operating in Iran. It was commissioned after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and initiated operations during 1993. It underwent major revamping during year 2000, and is scheduled for a second and third revamping in 2009–2010, bringing the total steel output to 7,200,000 metric tons per year. The company owns the successful football club, Sepahan.

Cornwall Iron Furnace is a designated National Historic Landmark that is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Cornwall, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania in the United States. The furnace was a leading Pennsylvania iron producer from 1742 until it was shut down in 1883. The furnaces, support buildings and surrounding community have been preserved as a historical site and museum, providing a glimpse into Lebanon County's industrial past. The site is the only intact charcoal-burning iron blast furnace in its original plantation in the western hemisphere. Established by Peter Grubb in 1742, Cornwall Furnace was operated during the Revolution by his sons Curtis and Peter Jr. who were major arms providers to George Washington. Robert Coleman acquired Cornwall Furnace after the Revolution and became Pennsylvania's first millionaire. Ownership of the furnace and its surroundings was transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1932.

The sponge iron reaction (SIR) is a chemical process based on redox cycling of an iron-based contact mass, the first cycle is a conversion step between iron metal (Fe) and wuestite (FeO), the second cycle is a conversion step between wuestite (FeO) and magnetite (Fe3O4). In application, the SIT is used in the reformer sponge iron cycle (RESC) in combination with a steam reforming unit.

Ancient iron production refers to iron working in times from prehistory to the early Middle Ages where knowledge of production processes is derived from archaeological investigation. Slag, the byproduct of iron-working processes such as smelting or smithing, is left at the iron-working site rather than being moved away with the product. It also weathers well and hence it is readily available for study. The size, shape, chemical composition and microstructure of slag are determined by features of the iron-working processes used at the time of its formation.

The Corex Process is a smelting reduction process created by Siemens VAI as a more environmentally friendly alternative to the blast furnace. Presently, the majority of steel production is through the blast furnace which has to rely on ever decreasing amounts of coking coal. That is coal which has been cooked in order to remove impurities so that it is superior to coal. In addition, the Blast furnace requires a sinter plant too in order to prepare the iron ore for reduction. Unlike the Blast Furnace, smelting reduction processes are typical smaller and use coal and oxygen directly to reduce iron ore into a usable product. Smelting reduction processes come in two basic varieties, two-stage or single-stage. In a single-stage system the iron ore is both reduced and melted in the same container. Meanwhile, in a two-stage process, like Corex, the ore is reduced in one shaft and melted and purified in another. Plants using the Corex process have been put use in areas such as South Africa, India, and China.

The ancient ferrier of Tannerre-en-Puisaye, located in the village of Tannerre-en-Puisaye in Burgundy, France, is a historic site used for mining and working of iron. The works date from the Gallic and Gallo-Roman times. It is one of two largest ferriers in France and one of the largest in Europe. Industrial exploitation of the site ceased when it was classed as French Heritage monument in 1982.

## References

Notes
1. "What is direct reduced iron (DRI)? definition and meaning". Businessdictionary.com. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
2. "Direct reduced iron (DRI)". International Iron Metallics Association.
3. R. J. Fruehan, et al. (2000). Theoretical Minimum Energies to Produce Steel (for Selected Conditions)
4. "2019 World Direct Reduction Statistics" (PDF). Midrex Technologies. 2019. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
5. "Steel making today and tomorrow" . Retrieved 31 May 2019.
6. Hattwig, Martin; Steen, Henrikus (2004), Handbook of explosion prevention and protection, Wiley-VCH, pp. 269–270, ISBN   978-3-527-30718-0. (dead link 24 October 2019)
7. "MIDREX" (PDF).
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