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A next-generation ironmaking process makes its commercial debut

By Gerald Ondrey |

In January, the world’s first commercial plant to use the ITmk3 process began production of iron nuggets, which are used in steelmaking. The plant, constructed by Kobe Steel, Ltd. (Tokyo; www.kobelcom) and Steel Dynamics, Inc. (Fort Wayne, Ind.; www.steeldynamics.com) at Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota, is expected to reach its design capacity of 500,000 metric tons per year (m.t./yr) in mid 2010. Developed by Kobe Steel, ITmk3 is said to be the next-generation ironmaking process (CE, January 2002, p. 15), and is totally different from the traditional blast furnace method. The process evolved from Fastmet (CE, March 1995, pp. 37–41), developed by Midrex Technologies, Inc. (Charlotte, N.C.; www.midrex.com) and Kobe Steel (Midrex’s parent company). Both Fastmet and ITmk3 use a rotary hearth furnace (RHF), a large turntable that rotates within a doughnut-shaped chamber. Feed pellets — agglomerates made from iron-ore fines and pulverized coal — are charged into the hearth (1–2 layers deep) and are heated by burners firing from above and by the combustion of gases released from the reduced pellets. One revolution of the hearth takes about 10 min. In Fastmet, the product is direct reduced iron, but in ITmk3, the…
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