Dr Xue Feng Dong and Dr Raymond Longbottom

$4.2 million secured to decarbonise steel production

$4.2 million secured to decarbonise steel production

Research project aims to revolutionise the steel industry and bring net-zero one stop closer

Australia is the world’s foremost exporter of iron ore, accounting for as much as 53 per cent of global exports annually. The process of decarbonising the iron and steel value chain stands to deliver a substantial contribution to global efforts aimed at reducing emissions.

A team of University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers has secured $4.2 million funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and industry partner BlueScope Steel to investigate ways to utilise low and medium grade iron ore in low emission steelmaking and further decarbonise domestic steel production.

Project leaders, Dr Xue Feng Dong and Dr Raymond Longbottom, together with Professor Brian Monaghan and Dr  Paul Zulli, of UOW’s School of Mechanical, Materials, Mechatronic and Biomedical Engineering, will explore the viability of Australia’s abundant, low to medium grade Pilbara iron ores in a potential breakthrough, low-emissions, electric smelting furnace (ESF)-based steelmaking route.

The team will work in close collaboration with senior BlueScope ironmaking and engineering officers to help ensure delivery of high impact research and development outcomes across the steelmaking supply chain.

In this project, the team will compare the performance and suitability of three types of Pilbara ore products - lump, fines and pellets - for direct reduction and hot metal production through an electric smelting furnace using a combined high temperature experimental and computational modelling approach.

“This project stands to revolutionise the steel industry and bring net-zero one step closer through assessing the way the country utilises all of its ores and helping establish future low emission steelmaking technology,” Dr Dong said.

“Over the next five years our team will collaborate with our industry partner to thoroughly investigate the long-term viability of utilising Australia’s Pilbara ores in the emerging ESF process, including identifying and addressing some future challenges and process constraints for low emission steel production.”

UOW is the home of the ARC Research Hub for Australian Steel Innovation (Steel Research Hub), which is supporting the transition of Australia’s steel manufacturing industry to a more sustainable, competitive and resilient position based on the creation of new, higher value-added products and more advanced manufacturing processes.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Sustainable Futures) Professor David Currow said the University’s team of researchers stood at the forefront of global steel innovation and advancement.

“This funding ensures the momentum of our steel research work, fostering its expansion and continuation,” Professor Currow said.

“The steel industry has long been integral to Wollongong’s identity, and this project will seamlessly integrate its rich history with the city’s forward-looking vision for research and innovation. Through collaboration with our esteemed government and industry partners, the University remains committed to delivering exceptional research, and driving economic and environmental security for the communities in which we operate and for the nation.”

This Project received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program, with further funding through industry partner BlueScope Steel.