German alliance builds electric DRI smelter test facility

Thyssenkrupp Steel has commissioned Grenzebach Maschinenbau with the engineering, construction, and commissioning of a direct reduced iron electric smelter test facility at its Duisburg site, Kallanish hears from the steelmaker.

The smelter is part of the research on the carbon-neutral transformation strategy at the site, which also involves the German Iron and Steel Institute (VDEh)’s subunit, Institute for Applied Research (BFI). The project aims to show how sponge iron from direct reduction plants can be liquefied in an innovative smelter to produce electric hot metal, tk Steel explains. The contract is worth around €7.5 million ($8.1m), of which the North Rhine-Westphalia state economy ministry will fund 65% and tk Steel 35%.

BFI will test different feedstocks, such as direct reduced iron, alternative carbonaceous products and recycled materials, for hot metal production. The first trial campaigns are scheduled to start at the beginning of 2026. The demonstration-scale smelter with a capacity of 100 kg/hour of DRI is adapted to the DRI test facility.

Last week, thyssenkrupp and BFI chose TS Elino to supply the DRI test facility (see Kallanish passim). The two units will collaborate to focus research on hydrogen-based direct reduction technology.

“Hydrogen-based direct reduction in combination with melters is an innovative approach that thyssenkrupp Steel is implementing on a large industrial scale for the first time,” comments chief technology officer Arnd Köfler. “The experimental melter and the direct reduction test facility … will enable us to use different charge materials flexibly, and to find answers to the fundamental technological questions surrounding the transformation of steelmaking.”

Christian Koehl Germany