Low emission iron and steel making one step closer with novel sinter technology

20 June 2023

University of Queensland researchers have developed a new type of sinter that could accelerate the iron and steelmaking industry’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions. 

In collaboration with industry partners Rio Tinto and Shougang Group, researchers from UQ’s Sustainable Minerals Institute developed a novel sinter that is both less carbon-intensive to create and more efficient to use.  

Sinter is the primary feed material for making iron in a blast furnace. It is created at a sinter plant by blending several materials – most importantly very fine iron ore – into agglomerates under extreme heat to produce a more solid material that can be used in a blast furnace.  

Leader of SMI’s High Temperature Processing Program Dr Xiaodong Ma said the novel sinter will enable industry to reduce emissions at both the sinter plant and the blast furnace.  

“Sinter is an important part of the ironmaking process – it constitutes roughly 70% of the charging material that is added to a blast furnace and therefore ultimately influences the industry’s emissions,” Dr Ma said.  

“When you talk about carbon and emissions, you are really talking about two stages: the emissions created when the sinter itself is made and then the emissions created by the furnace in which the sinter is used.  

“The sinter we have developed, which is now the intellectual property of Shougang Group, addresses both stages but has a particularly significant effect on the amount of coke consumed at the sinter plant.  

 “It can reduce the amount of coking coal in the sinter by about 23% - that is a huge amount considering the volumes of sinter used by the industry.  

“Additionally, at the blast furnace stage it has improved reducibility and a low slag volume, meaning it performs better and therefore requires the blast furnaces to consume less coking coal.  

“These results were proved in our own labs here at The University of Queensland and then again in pilot-scale trials run by the Shougang Group.” 

The project is the latest in a series that bring together metal miners and metal makers, both of which have an interest in better understanding their product and reducing carbon emissions. 

“Rio Tinto is the world’s second-largest iron ore miner and their technical marketing team want to know how their iron ore fines are being used, and to what affect, as well as helping with the downstream carbon emissions related to them.  

“The Shougang Group is the world’s ninth largest steel maker, and they are very interested in decreasing carbon emissions across their operations, while maintaining performance, as their industry is a major contributor to global emissions.” 

Dr Xiadong Ma will be presenting the project as part of the 2023 World Mining Congress’s ‘Processing & Refining’ stream on 29 June.

If you’d like to learn more about the project, you can contact Dr Xiaodong Ma at x.ma@uq.edu.au