In North America, Cliffs’ high-grade iron ore pellets has already allowed steelmakers to perform efficiently with reduced environmental impacts for decades. Over the past 15 years, there has been a dramatic shift in the method and geographical location of crude steel production in the United States. Today in the U.S., 68% of crude steel production is produced by EAF, with the remaining 32% produced by blast furnaces.

EAF steel production is facilitating opportunities for domestically produced ore-based metallic (OBM). As a result, evolution of the United States steelmaking sector will represent the next generation of improvements: domestic and reliable sourcing of OBM that can improve efficiency and environmental performance in the blast furnace as well as EAF.

Increased use of Ore Based Metallics (OBM) to reduce Blast Furnace and EAF emissions

Ore-based metallics - like Cliffs hot-briquetted iron (HBI) product – achieve further emissions reductions compared to pellets and sinter used in integrated steelmaking. The U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Energy have reported on the environmental benefits of EAF steelmaking in contrast to blast furnaces, citing emissions reductions for a number of pollutants:

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In large part, improvements are achieved because HBI production relies on natural gas as a fuel source as opposed to coal. Research studies have also demonstrated decreased emissions using EAF technology. The results from a 2016 paper (Di Cecca et al. 2016) are captured in the chart below.

  • Almost 100% reduction in SO2 emissions
  • Approx. 96% improvement in NOx emissions
  • Approx. 79% improvement in PM2.5 emissions
  • Approx. 67% improvement in CO2 emissions
  • Approx. 99% improvement in Hg emissions
  • Approx. 83% improvement in CO emissions

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However, environmental footprint reductions associated with OBM are two-fold. In addition to their primary use by EAF steelmakers, they can be used as a supplementing feedstock to blast furnace steelmakers. Midrex Technologies, the design and engineering firm that is supporting development of Cliffs’ HBI plant, cites that hot metal production in the blast furnace increases by 8% for each 10% increase of HBI charged into the blast furnace, as well as decreasing coke use by 7%, which in turn has the effect of lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

Steelmaking through environmentally cleaner methods is not compromising quality. The increased availability of OBM will facilitate advancement of products to complement growing sectors of the economy such as energy production (e.g. renewable energy technologies), the automotive sector (e.g. fuel-efficient and electric vehicles), and infrastructure development (e.g. energy-efficient buildings). Cliffs’ HBI will enable the lifecycle production of cleaner steel and, as the quality of clean steel improves, it will enable the development of green technologies.

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