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Sustainable steelmaking case studies

Environmental challenges for the iron- and

steelmaking process
N. Schofield1, R. Fisher1* and D. R. Anderson1

The challenge to major process combination of process design, increasing pressure to reduce these
industries like the steel industry is to operating methods and abatement emissions. Table 1 compares typical
achieve satisfactory environmental technology can be readily applied. pollutant emissions from EU sinter
performance in a cost-effective manner. However, existing plants are required plants with the benchmark release
Three case studies describe recent work to be upgraded on an agreed timescale levels specified in UK guidance. The UK
by Corus UK to develop novel to achieve these benchmark release Environment Agency recognises bag
approaches for reducing emissions in a limits. filters as BAT for sinter plants, and
sustainable manner: the development of Commonly, BAT makes use of require the upgrading of sinter plant
novel end-of-pipe technology for the end-of-pipe methods and can abatement to BAT by 2007. To achieve
abatement of pollutants; the use of contribute highly to capital, operating these tight limits, an integrated
Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd

process-integrated techniques to and maintenance costs. Hence, approach involving a combination of

suppress dioxin emissions; and the use equipment or technology capable of process-integrated and end-of-pipe
of knowledge-based expert systems to delivering BAT requirements at treatments is required.
enhance the operation of a waste gas reduced capital cost, while satisfying Throughout Europe, sinter plant main
cleaning system. the principles of sustainability, are stack emissions are controlled
highly desirable. However, the predominantly by electrostatic
application of BAT may well bring other precipitators (ESPs). However, ESPs
Sustainable development has become complications, such as the handling and struggle to achieve particulate emission
one of the European Unions main treatment of concentrated pollutants concentrations below 50 mg m23
goals, with environmental protection that would otherwise be dispersed in owing to their sensitivity to factors
integrated in all its policies in line with the environment. such as dust resisitivity, dewpoint, gas
the concept of the triple bottom line of The challenge to major process temperature, plant maintenance, plate
economic growth and social progress industries like the steel industry is to corrosion and rapping frequency, thus
without detriment to the environment. achieve satisfactory environmental making consistent performance difficult
The control of pollutants from the iron performance in a cost-effective to achieve. Bag filters are capable of
and steel industry is fundamental in manner, so that competitiveness can achieving particulate emission
working towards sustainable be maintained a truly sustainable concentrations of ,10 mg m23, but
operations, with respect to minimising approach. The case studies below they are difficult to operate on sinter
the environmental and health impacts describe recent work by Corus UK to plants owing to the moisture content of
develop novel approaches for reducing the waste gas, the abrasive nature of
of releases and reducing waste
emissions in a sustainable manner some components of the dust released
generation and energy consumption.
these are the development of novel from the process and the high waste
A major step towards this is the
end-of-pipe technology for the gas temperatures encountered. Further
implementation of best available
abatement of pollutants, the use of problems may arise in bag cleaning
techniques (BAT) as required under the
process-integrated techniques to owing to the stickiness of the dust
Integrated Pollution Prevention and
suppress dioxin emissions, and finally caused by the presence of alkali
Control (IPPC) Directive. Guidance on
the use of knowledge-based expert chlorides and hydrocarbons in the
what constitutes BAT across the
systems to enhance the operation of a waste gas. Most of the problems
European Union is provided in a series
waste gas cleaning system. associated with the use of bag filters on
of supporting reference documents
sinter plants are due to deficiencies in
(BREF notes) issued by the European
Commission, and member states are Case studies the properties of the fabric materials
used in bag manufacture.
required to take these documents into Reductions in particulate emissions To overcome the limitations of bag
consideration when developing national from sintering using novel metallic filters, an alternative technology has
guidance. Within the UK interpretation
filter been sought, funded in part by an
of IPPC, the concept of benchmark
Iron ore sinter plants are important to ECSC research grant, involving the use
release levels has been introduced;
the sustainability of integrated of metallic filter screens of relatively
these benchmark release levels apply
steelmaking as they offer a route for large mesh size, used instead of
to new plants where the best
the recycling of revert materials traditional fabric filter bags, to offer a
generated within the integrated method of achieving bag filter
Corus Research, Development and Technology,
Swinden Technology Centre, Rotherham process route; however, they also performance whilst avoiding fabric
S60 3AR, UK account for a substantial proportion of related problems. This novel metallic
*Corresponding author, email ray.fisher@ the airborne pollutants from an filter screen is shown in Fig. 1. A filter integrated site, and are under cake is built on this mesh from the

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of particulate-bound pollutants below

the required release levels. However,
other, vapour-phase, pollutants do not
afford the same level of reduction,
hence a process-integrated element is
required in conjunction with end-of-pipe
treatment to achieve a full reduction.
Dioxins (polychlorinated
dibenzo-p-dioxin and polychlorinated
dibenzofurans, or PCDD/Fs) are formed
as trace by-products in high
temperature processes such as
combustion, waste incineration and
iron and steel production, of which the
sintering process is by far the largest
contributor. Research has concluded
1 Filter screen showing internal support mesh
that the most likely formation
mechanism is by de novo synthesis
particulates in the waste gas, and this electrostatic precipitator, could provide
at temperatures between 250 and
cake then acts as a filtration medium. a sustainable solution to reduce
The screens can be vigorously cleaned, sintering emissions below the levels
Work carried out in the waste
have a long life, and are far less subject quoted in the BREF notes. The ESP
incineration industry found that the
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to the problems which can affect fabric could be tuned to collect just the
formation of dioxins could be
media. iron-rich particles for direct recycling to
suppressed by injecting ammonia
The filter has shown that the sintering process and the
compounds into the waste gas stream
performance below 10 mg m23 outlet chloride-rich remains can be captured
where temperatures are favourable for
dust concentration can be achieved, by the metallic filter and dealt with
dioxin formation. However, similar trials
and with similar operating costs to that separately. However, this in itself
at a sinter plant were less effective and
of a traditional filter. However, analysis causes further obstacles to
concluded that dioxins were formed
of the dust collected by the filter sustainability as the concentrated
within the sinter bed ahead of the
indicated that smaller particles, collection of pollutants (possibly
flame front, and the injection of
relatively rich in alkali chlorides, lead including a substantial radioactive
ammonia in the waste gas had little
and zinc, were collected on the element) may mean that disposal of the
or no effect. However research has
screens, while large particles, typical of waste becomes a much larger problem
shown that other nitrogen containing
sintering material, tended to settle out than the higher emission levels. This
reagents are effective in suppressing
in the gas stream before filtration. In issue is still to be resolved as the
dioxins and trials to explore the
addition, heavy metal capture was metallic filter goes through prolonged
possibility of adding a solid
significantly better and a reduction of tests.
suppressant, i.e. urea, directly onto
95% in the small quantities of the sinter bed have resulted in a
radioactive species which normally are Suppression of PCDD/F formation
patent application demonstrating
emitted via the sinter stack was also by urea additions to sintering
that dioxin emissions can be
achieved. process
reduced below the 1 ng I-TEQ Nm23
It is believed that a full scale metallic The developments described above level.
filter, used in series with an have the potential to reduce emissions Trials have been undertaken to
establish the optimum urea feed rate
Table 1 Comparison of typical emission ranges for sinter plant main stacks for the greatest reduction in dioxins
with benchmark release levels
while still avoiding increased particulate
Existing emission ranges, Benchmark release level, emissions (from the increase in alkaline
Pollutant mg Nm23 mg Nm23 chlorides) and the presence of free
ammonia in the waste gas. The
Particulate 50200 20 optimum addition rate has been found
SO2 400750 250
to reduce dioxin emissions by 50%
NOx 400600 100
Metals without significant increase in
Lead 2 particulate and ammonia emissions
Manganese 0.9 (Fig. 2), the cost of which adds
Cadmium 0.1 approximately 0.03 to the price of a
Chromium 0.25 tonne of sinter. This is seen as a
Copper 0.3
cost-effective technique for the
Zinc 0.1
Thallium 0.25 suppression of dioxins and trials are
Vanadium 0.25 continuing to confirm the long-term
Mercury 0.75 viability of the technique. Studies will
PCDD/Fs * 147* 0.5* address potential drawbacks to the
VOCs 7000 technique (for example ammonium
PAHs 5
compounds may build up when ESP
*ng I-TEQ Nm23. dust is recycled, resulting in corrosion

Ironmaking and Steelmaking 2004 VOL 31 NO 6 429


the complexity of controls. For

example, with combined systems, the
balance between secondary extraction
(controlling emissions into the building
and from roof vents) and primary
extraction (controlling fume at source)
can have a major impact on resulting
emissions. Fume extraction condition
monitoring and optimisation can be
better addressed by using expert
systems for condition monitoring and
neural networks for optimised control.
An expert system incorporating
knowledge based rules and neural
network simulations has been
developed which provides plant
personnel, through mimic screens and
warning and alarm messages, with a
2 PCDD/F concentration reduction with urea addition real-time condition monitoring tool.
Abnormalities with plant operation,
of plant components), so that the which systems can be developed. Such previously undetectable without
sustainability of the technique is fully a system has been developed for use at extensive plant monitoring exercises,
Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd

examined. a steelmaking site in the UK, with the are now instantly recognised and
help of ECSC funding. alarmed, thereby allowing personnel to
Artificial intelligence and expert Steelmaking plant fume extraction prioritise maintenance and hence
systems for steelplant pollution and secondary ventilation systems are increase plant availability and minimise
control usually multi-ducted systems serving a energy usage.
The case studies above concentrate on range of operational areas with a Exercises to assess the
understanding the process to identify common fan system and bag filter effectiveness of the expert system in
the most effective technique for plant. A typical system is shown in terms of reducing fume emissions and
abatement, be it process integrated or Fig. 3. Dampers control flow to each energy usage have shown initial
end-of-pipe. With this in place, the next plant area, which must be operational improvements in both areas. Fugitive
step towards environmental to ensure good distribution of flow. particulate emissions from the
improvement is the avoidance of Failed flow control dampers can result steelmaking plant reduced by more
pollution incidents, which occur as a in under/overextraction leading to than 40% on installation of the expert
result of non-optimised control at a unnecessary fume emissions and/or system and specific energy usage of
process or by failure of the pollution excessive fan energy use. Malfunctions the extraction system was reduced by
control equipment to operate to the such as fan failure or faulty bag filter 4 kW t21 of steel initially (Fig. 4).
required specification. Frequently these cleaning systems are also common and The continued optimum performance
incidents are caused by equipment can cause unnecessary fugitive of the extraction system was difficult to
faults or operational anomalies, which emissions. In addition, the optimisation achieve, however, owing to the
could have been avoided by anticipation of flow distribution is difficult owing to reluctance of plant personnel to adopt
and pre-emptive action, or minimised
by better plant control and/or
responsive remedial action.
As the application of BAT becomes
increasingly common, the need for
improved pollution control via condition
monitoring and operational control is
becoming increasingly important in
maintaining regulatory compliance and
reducing environmental impact, but
also in reducing energy consumption
and downtimes due to plant failures.
The emergence of robust and
industrially reliable artificial intelligence
and expert systems is a growing
feature in the development of
advanced control techniques,
particularly for the process industries.
These techniques can offer a
continuous improvement path to
process plant operators. Software
platforms are engineered to high quality
levels and provide a reliable base upon 3 Schematic layout of typical steelmaking plant with expert system

430 Ironmaking and Steelmaking 2004 VOL 31 NO 6


the development of a system is

required to achieve buy-in from the
plant operators so that continued
optimum performance can be

Corus UK is meeting the challenge to
reduce its emissions in a sustainable
manner with respect to minimising the
environmental and health impacts of
4 CUSUM analysis of specific energy usage before and after installation of releases and reducing waste
expert system generation and energy consumption.
The case studies above have
the system in the long-term. The most maintenance and upkeep of the highlighted the need for research in
important aspect of the expert system system. This commitment must not this area to further understanding of
development, therefore, has been only be in financial terms but also in the challenge faced by process
found to be commitment by site ownership of the system. The industries, so that prioritised
management through ownership of the user-friendliness and the quality cost-effective solutions can be sought.
expert system. of advice given by a system can The process is continuous, however,
It is important that site management also make a crucial difference to and as the above examples have
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are committed to the implementation the eventual adoption of a system stated, work must continue to further
of an AI/EX system, at the initial capital and its effectiveness. Education develop sustainable operations in the
purchase stage through to delivery and and involvement of users in coming years.

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