DRI usage will continue to grow: IIMA adviser

Expansion in direct reduced iron (DRI) consumption is likely while the world’s steelmakers strive to decarbonise production and to secure future feedstock, Kallanish learns from an article by consultant Robert Mazurak.

Mazurak, an adviser to the International Iron Metallics Assocaition, says the use of DRI and hot briquetted iron (HBI) in steelmaking is gaining broader acceptance. Global DRI production has risen since 2016 by nearly 8 million tonnes per year.

“The accelerated growth rate in DRI production may well continue, such that likely we will be seeing another 60mt of incremental DRI output by the end of 2030 to reach an annual level of 185-190mt, rising to 13% of the combined BFI plus DRI ironmaking total,” Mazurak states in his article, published on the Midrex website.

The president of Mazurak Resource Consulting is cautiously optimistic that ore-based metallics (OBM) growth rates will be sustained, with accelerated production and use of all forms of DRI. This comes with new iron ore briquetting hubs, including one announced by Vale, that will likely rise to serve multiple off-takers in targeted regions to feed both existing and new DRI plants.

Straight melting of scrap in an electric arc furnace (EAF), combined with “green” power sources such as hydrogen, results in much lower emissions and carbon footprint compared with traditional steelmaking. Melting scrap and DRI in an EAF is the next best alternative.

To that end, hydrogen-enriched gas-based reduction of iron ore in DRI plants, plus arc furnace melting of DRI and scrap, currently offers the primary pathway for lowest carbon emission steelmaking.

“I’ve been chastened in my belief that breakthrough smelting reduction technologies would have gained more traction by now as competition to the DRI-EAF steelmaking route. It now seems clear that the ‘tried and true,’ proven DRI technologies will be the ones to proliferate over the next several decades,” states Mazurak, adding: “Advancements in direct smelting technologies could slowly develop and ultimately impact DRI plant capacity growth rates.”

Over the last 20 years, cold DRI (CDRI) production went from 39mt to 102.1mt, while hot DRI (HDRI) soared nearly eight-fold, from 1.8mt to 13.0mt in 2022.

“The rapid rise in HDRI use in the EAF is from the recognition that it provides the benefits of quicker melting and an energy savings from the retained, latent heat. However, global hot briquetted iron production has increased only marginally, from 8.6mt in 2003 to 11.4mt in 2022, despite being the most desirable DRI form for seaborne trade,” notes Mazurak.

Other recognised applications gaining acceptance include HBI use in blast furnaces for productivity enhancement and in basic oxygen furnaces as trim coolant.

John Isaacson USA