Eagle Ford Gas Draws Steelmakers to Texas' Coastal Bend
Rigzone: Your "gowest" project will use the direct reduction process rather than coke-based blast furnaces to produce HBI for steelmaking. Briefly, how does direct reduction work and why does voestalpine consider it more desirable than coke-based blast furnaces?
Pastl: In contrast to coke-based blast furnaces, the direct reduction plant only uses natural gas as the reducing agent, which is much more environmentally friendly. Due to the fact that natural gas and iron oxides are the only raw materials used in the process, no hazardous or toxic by-products will occur in the facility.
Most naturally occurring iron oxide contains about 30 percent oxygen. The direct reduction process removes this bonded oxygen in the iron ore pellets at elevated temperatures by a reducing gas, which is produced from natural gas. The reduction occurs in a sealed low-pressure reduction reactor, which is not vented to the atmosphere. The iron oxide pellets enter the reactor through the feed pipes, are reduced to metallic iron and are discharged from the furnace cone. Despite the high temperature of approx. 700 degrees Celsius (1,300 degrees Fahrenheit), the product is not in a molten stage. This is another advantage over the traditional blast furnace route, since product handling is much safer and environmentally friendly. For easier transportation, the highly metallized iron is being briquetted into palm-sized, cushion-shaped HBI.
Neither the iron oxides nor the HBI is combustive, which makes the DRI technology not only the most environmentally friendly but also the safest way of iron making.
Rigzone: How many people do you expect to hire during operations, and which types of vacancies are you looking to fill?
Pastl: The project will create approximately 150 high-quality jobs, ranging from unskilled workers and equipment/crane operators to process engineers and plant managers. The hiring process will start mid this year.
Rigzone: Would you like to make any additional comments about the gowest project and voestalpine's future in the Coastal Bend?
Pastl: The project is voestalpine's largest foreign direct investment and a major step in achieving a low-carbon economy. Half of the production volume will be shipped to our existing Austrian steel mills in Linz and Donawitz for the production of sophisticated steel grades. The remainder will serve as a strategic reserve and will also be sold to partners interested in longer-term contracts. The anticipated start of operations is December 2015.
In accordance with our long-term commitment to South Texas, we go the extra mile to be in compliance not only with existing emission limits but also with future ones. The plant design incorporates our European environmental standards (whenever more stringent) and has many innovative features, such as: use of seawater to conserve precious freshwater resources, closed material handling and storage system for eliminating fugitive dust and round-trip shipping concept to minimize empty ship sailings.
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