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ULCOS = Ultra Low CO2 Steelmaking


Villa Jansen, Rotterdam (Designed by Erick van Egeraat)

In both the EAF steelmaking process and the BF process (see routes for steel production), CO2 emissions can be reduced by 10-15%. The steel industry has made major investments in this area. Tata Steel, IJmuiden is currently developing a new process for CO2 reduction in the blast furnace. The objective of this project (ULCOS) is a decrease of 50%. In the first project phase 200 (variant) production routes have been investigated for emissions, technological development and (future) implementation options. Four promising technologies have emerged from the survey:

  • Blast furnace with top gas recycling. The gases are separated and the useful gases fed back into the furnace. This results in savings on coke use.
  • Smelting reduction (HIsarna). This technology is based on smelting and uses considerably less coke. This reduces CO2 emissions. The coke can be replaced by biomass for example.
  • Direct reduced iron (DRI). Here iron is produced directly from iron ore via a reducing gas produced from natural gas. After this the iron is converted into steel using the EAF process.
  • Iron ore electrolysis. Here iron and oxygen are produced by electrolysis of iron ore. This technology is the least developed in comparison with the three alternatives, however the process emits no CO2.   

Productie van ijzer direct uit ijzererts door elektrolyse geeft geen CO2 uitstoot
Iron ore electrolysis: electrolysis of iron from iron ore emits no CO2

Top gas recycling and HIsarna appear the most promising for Ultra Low CO2 Steelmaking. In 2010 ULCOS carried out phase two: a first step towards scaling up the technology to an industrial production process. To do this a 'small' blast furnace was built in IJmuiden in 2011 having a capacity of 1 million tons of steel.

More information about ULCOS is available in the presentation that was given at the National Steel Construction Day (Nationale Staalbouwdag) in 2010. This is available from the download section.

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