Uncovering Fundamental Mechanisms to Enable Sustainable Steel Manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: WMG

Abstract

Steel is a backbone material in modern society. Global steel demand is continuously growing and is forecast to double by 2050. Strict environmental regulations, new energy sources, government support for manufacturing, and restructuring of the steel industry in the UK and worldwide are creating the opportunity to revolutionise the industry to produce low carbon, high value added steels. This creates an urgent need for a strong UK research base in process metallurgy that will help transform the UK steel industry into more sustainable operations. This Fellowship aligns well with this urgent need for UK steel industry.
Under this EPSRC Manufacturing Fellowship, I will bring best practice in industry to academia. I will establish an internationally recognised multi-disciplinary research team, which will build the research (theoretical, experimental and modelling) capability and create the fundamental knowledge needed to realise transformative changes on extraction, refining and casting of steels, and address the future global mega trends in energy, CO2 regulation and oversupply. A key area of focus will be low carbon, low energy and flexible ironmaking process including HIsarna technology.
HIsarna process is a promising breakthrough technology, as an alternative to conventional blast furnace (BF) ironmaking, created under the ULCOS (Ultra-Low CO2 Steelmaking) project (www.ulcos.org). The concept of the HIsarna technology has been successfully validated by four operational campaigns from 2011 to 2014 on the pilot plant with the capacity of 60 kt per year of hot metal constructed at Tata Steel. The confirmed advantages include: very high energy efficiency; flexibility in feed materials (directly using thermal coal, fine iron ore, waste oxides) without coking and ore agglomeration; 20% or above primary energy and CO2 saving; possibly up to 80% CO2 emission reduction with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) of the top gas; and flexible operations. Significantly higher CO2 emission reduction by HIsarna (without CCS), 35% or above compared to current BF ironmaking, can be achieved by further combining simultaneous scrap melting, biomass injection (partially replacing coal) and hydrocarbon injection in the process.
However, a significant challenging road lies ahead for the HIsarna technology. One of the critical aspects for its up-scaling is that several critical scientific mechanisms have not been discovered due to its innovative nature, but will be uncovered in this Fellowship. These include (1) quantification of the dynamic interfacial phenomena in the reacting slag-metal droplet system due to the element (O, S etc) mass transfer at the slag-metal droplet interface and their important role on the fast reduction of FeO in slag, and (2) reaction mechanisms and rates between hydrocarbons and slag, metal and gases. Under this Fellowship I will also build the modelling capability (CFD model and dynamic process model) for development and optimisation of complex manufacturing processes.
The research capability and the critical knowledge created under this Fellowship will be applied to study more fuel-efficient and economical BF ironmaking by shale gas injection, direct reduced iron production by shale gas, phosphorus refining in basic oxygen steelmaking, high residual obsolete scrap recycling, and interfacial phenomena in the casting mould. Furthermore, a capability on extractive metallurgy will help the UK to develop processes for recovering critical materials from wastes and extracting Mg and Ti, and will also be useful to other areas such as gasification and geology where molten oxide phases are encountered.
This Fellowship will be held at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), University of Warwick, in collaboration with Tata Steel, the main steel producer in the UK. It will help unlock the potential of the UK steel industry to be more innovative, productive and competitive, whilst using fewer resources and reducing environmental impact.

Planned Impact

1. UK and world steel industry
The aim of my Fellowship is to establish an internationally recognised research team, which will build the research capability and create the fundamental knowledge needed to realise transformative changes on extraction, refining and casting of steels and address the future global mega trends in energy, CO2 regulation and oversupply. A key area of focus is the low carbon HIsarna technology. The chief beneficiaries are the steelmakers in the UK and world. The scientific and technological infrastructure established will enable an accelerated response to the key manufacturing challenges in steel production.
With the threat of increasing raw material and energy prices, the decreasing access to prime ore and coke coal, and the strict target of emission reduction from the EU, it is essential that the steel production in the UK becomes a low carbon, low energy, flexible process focusing on the creation of advanced products in the most cost-efficient way. My Fellowship will enable the UK steel industry to be in the leading position to exploit the game changing HIsarna technology. This can help transform the UK and world steel industry - more innovative, productive and competitive whilst using fewer resources and reducing environmental impact.
2. Suppliers
My Fellowship will have a major impact on upstream raw materials supply chain, cement industry (being an important user of slag by-products), waste processing industry, metal processing industry and engineering industry. Unlike blast furnace ironmaking process, HIsarna technology can flexibly work with a wide variety of raw materials from conventional hematite to titano-magnetite, scrap, waste oxides, thermal coal, shale gas and biomass. The equipment builders and process control system designers will benefit from the construction of the up-scaling plant. The energy sector will benefit from the fundamental understanding of coal gasification.
3. Customers
My Fellowship will provide new knowledge and technologies that can help revolutionise the UK steel industry with substantially reducing CO2 emissions in steel production. This will encourage the customers (e.g. automotive industry) in favour of using steel over other materials with higher carbon footprint.
4. Education and training
The thematic area "Developing manufacturing Leaders" under the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future challenge states that "identifying, nurturing and supporting appropriate individuals at different career stages is vital for the future health of the UK innovation system." My Fellowship will provide a unique platform for myself to become an internationally-recognised leader in the research field of sustainable steel manufacturing. This will also provide great opportunities to develop potential future scientific/engineering leaders in manufacturing by directly engaging with young post-doc researchers and PhD students. This research programme will attract young people to pursue the courses and careers in manufacturing.
5. Society and environment
The success of my Fellowship will help to ensure that the UK steel industry is in a leading position to realise transformative changes on extraction, refining and casting of steels including exploiting the promising HIsarna technology. This will mean that the most sought-after new steels can be produced via a low carbon, low energy, flexible process, which will create new jobs and aid the growth of the UK and global economy. This breakthrough technology will also be used for processing wastes (BOF sludge, mill scales) which has obvious environmental and health benefits. This research will help change the public perception of steel manufacturing from a "smoke-stack" and "sunset" industry, to one that works at the forefront of science and technology, where radical improvement can be achieved in its impact on society. All this information will be given to the media to increase the public awareness of this research programme.
 
Description A sustainable UK steel industry is vitally important to UK's future growth prospects. This article ?rst analyses the grand trends and challenges that the UK steel industry is facing. Then alternative iron making processes are brie?y reviewed with regard to its ?exibility in raw material and energy and its reduction in CO2 emissions. It is concluded that in the long-term, the scrap-based EAF route can be considered as a viable process route for the UK steel industry. For the current integrated process, its sustainability can be achieved by substantially improving its energy/material ef?ciency and by focusing on the creation of value-added steel products. It also points out that ensuring the sustainability of the UK steel industry requires a clear strategy, substantial capital expenses and support from the government and the industry itself. The UK has to invest in/ re-shape steel-related research creating new competences for the viability of the industry.
Exploitation Route We concluded a clear vision for UK steel industry. Our findings will be taken forward by the personnel related steel industry: policy makers, industry, academics, professional bodies, and students.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03019233.2016.1211150?journalCode=yirs20
 
Description Our findings concluded a clear vision for UK steel industry. It has good impact to all the personnel related to steel industry, from policy makers to professionals to students and to the people employed by the industry and associated. We have been approached by various audiences for the paper.
Sector Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Industry sponsored project
Amount £140,000 (GBP)
Organisation Tata Steel Europe 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 10/2021
 
Title High temperature System under Flammable Gas 
Description A specifically designed high temperature furnace operating under flammable gases with online detection of gas composition. It is used for studying the reactions in the slag-metal-slag systems under high temperatures and flammable gases. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The system is under construction. It will be commissioned in March 2017. The results will come out in coming years. 
 
Title High temperature furnaces 
Description Further two high temperature furnaces (up to 1600 degree C) were purchased for the slag-metal-gas multiphase experiments from other financial sources. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Both furnace was delivered in early 2018 and will be commissioned in first quarter of 2018. It will substantially increase the high temperature research capability in WMG and the UK. 
 
Description BOF modelling 
Organisation Swinburne University of Technology
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Co-supervising a PhD student working on BOF modelling
Collaborator Contribution Leading the BOF modelling (primary supervisor and PhD student based in Swinburne)
Impact Substantially advanced understanding of BOF modelling
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with British Steel 
Organisation Cytec Industries
Department R&D
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Analyse the current scrap supply, the current and future steel need, and the steel manufacturing processes at British Steel (Scunthorpe), and provide a technological road map for British Steel to produce high quality steel by maximizing the use of scrap.
Collaborator Contribution Share production information; provide in-kind financial support; provide necessary technical support
Impact The project just started in January 2019
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with USTB (University of Science and Technology Beijing) 
Organisation University of Science and Technology Beijing
PI Contribution exchange of academic staff; exchange of research students; visiting professorship
Collaborator Contribution exchange of academic staff; exchange of research students; visiting professorship
Impact completed a UK-China jointly funded project (A UK-China partnership for energy and materials recovery in steelmaking), funded by Innovate UK/EPSRC and MOST China.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Energy and Materials Recovery from steelmaking slags 
Organisation University of Science and Technology of China USTC
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My team is working USTB in the following areas: (1) energy and materials recovery from steelmaking slags; (2) clean steel technology; and (3) low carbon steel manufacturing.
Collaborator Contribution (1) to provide unique experimental facilities such as high pressure DTG; (2) provide expertise in clean steel technology
Impact A project titled "A UK-China Partnership for Energy and Materials Recovery in Steelmaking" has been completed in November 2017.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Tata Steel 
Organisation Tata Steel Europe
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution My team (myself, postdoc research fellows and PhD students) is working with Tata Steel in the following areas: (1) to uncover the critical scientific mechanisms underlying the low carbon HIsarna process; (2) recycling of scarp; and (3) steel cleanness / steel quality.
Collaborator Contribution (1) to provide in house expertise to advise and assist in the research of the fellowship; (2) to support at its costs three PhD studentships withing the term of the fellowship, including necessary experimental costs; (3) to sample in HIsarna trials, necessary raw materials, and characterisation and analysis of samples. The agreement between Tata Steel and University of Warwick related to the fellowship is in the stage of signature (21 February 2017)
Impact It is in the initial stage of this collaboration. The project titles for PhD students and post-doc research fellows have been decided, and the results will come out in coming years.
Start Year 2016
 
Description A talk given in Northeastern University, China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact An invited talk titled "Overcoming scientific challenges to sustainable steel manufacturing" was delivered to around 30 postgraduates and academic supervisors at Northeastern University, China, which sparked questions and discussion afterward, and attracted interest in collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description An invited talk in USTB China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In June 2017 an invited presentation titled "Overcoming scientific challenges to sustainable steel manufacturing" was delivered in Metallurgy Innovation Symposium 2017 in USTB, Beijing to around 200 hundreds audiences including academics, postgraduates, industry, policymakers. This sparks questions and discussion afterwards, and also attracted collaboration interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Conference keynotes Birmingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A keynotes titled "Research on Sustainable steel manufacturing in WMG, the University of Warwick" in the 5th UK-China Steel Research Forum, University of Birmingham, 45/07/2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Distinguished Seminar in Chongqing University 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited to give a distinguished seminar on recent Breakthrough in Engineering Fields at Chongqing University, China. Title - BOF steelmaking - advanced understanding and modelling.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description International conference (MacMaster, canada) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was invited to give a keynote on the fundamental research related to my fellowship and beyond for the sustainable steel manufacturing. The audiences are the academics and post-graduates from a number of Canadian Universities (McMaster, Toronto, etc) and professionals from steel industry. It attracted great interest from the audiences in Canada. It also formed informal collaboration with the academics in Canada in related areas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description News release (Tata Steel) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact There was a press release on my Fellowship in Tata Steel R&D in 2016. This extended to a wide range of Tata Steel employees from R&D to business. It gave Tata Steel encouragement on government support to Steel Industry. It attracts collaboration interest between industry and university of warwick.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Residual in Steel talk 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited talk on "Mechanism of removal residual elements" in one-day seminar "Residuals in Steel" organized by IOM3 at Warwick University Conference Centre on 22/11/2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description UKRI and Newton Fund activity in WUhan 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact UKRI and NEWTON FUDN organized an event in Wuhan China titled "Hydrogen, Steel and a Low Carbon Future" on 15th March 2018. 50 to 100 audiences from Newton Fellows in CHina, media, postgraduates, university academic staff, British Embassy officers, China local government officers. Three speakers including myself gave talks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018