Liberty Steel successfully uses 100% biomass to replace anthracite in UK EAFs

Liberty Steel Group said Dec. 7 it has successfully used a 100% biomass anthracite coal substitute from CPL Industries in trials in the UK this year, diversifying use of coal products in electric arc furnace steelmaking.

CPL’s Ecoke, is a new sustainable material to replace coal and trials with 100% biomass product have proven to be effective in cutting emissions, Ed Heath-Whyte, Liberty Steel UK’s head of environment and sustainability, said at the World Steel Association’s Breakthrough Technology conference in Abu Dhabi. Ecoke promises to transform the steel industry’s carbon footprint following trials at Liberty Steel UK, which supplies high-precision steel products for strategic sectors such as defense, aerospace and energy, the steel group said in a statement.

The Breakthrough Technology conference took place this week on the sidelines of COP28, focused on new steel technologies with potential to decarbonize the sector, using hydrogen, renewable energy and new ferrous scrap and direct-charged metallic iron inputs.

The full cost per ton of using ecoke100 compared with anthracite, when UK Emission Trading System charges are included, were very positive, Heath-Whyte said.

Anthracite trade has been affected by sanctions on Russian coal products in the UK and the EU, following the war in Ukraine. Russia is a major supplier of anthracite and pulverized coal injection grade material to seaborne markets, with Europe previously a key market. Alternative anthracite suppliers include South Africa, Vietnam, Peru and the US, which may be limited in volumes and specific qualities to replace Russian coals for various steel and iron ore applications. Met coke, such as coke breeze, has seen stronger demand as a result.

Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed Chinese export 65/66 CSR blast furnace coke at $372/mt FOB North China on Dec. 7.

CPL has also delivered Ecoke to Spanish EAF steel producer Sidenor earlier this year, and previously launched pilot trials with several steelmakers to test new product applications.

Ecoke briquettes replace anthracite, which is the main source of charge carbon used in EAFs to optimize steel production and electricity use along with steel quality. Use of Ecoke may cut the need for purchasing carbon allowance permits, under regulated markets in Europe.

Liberty’s first trials in 2022 used ecoke30 — a 30% biomass and 70% anthracite product which cut direct carbon emissions from EAFs by up to 30% — while since the middle of this year it has used ecoke100, made up of 100% biomass, it said.

“There had been concern that ecoke100 might reduce performance, and increase costs because ecoke costs more per ton than anthracite,” Liberty said.

“The great news is that ecoke100’s melting performance is just as good, and the Environment Agency has confirmed that Ecoke has no impact on water, ground, or waste. Additionally, since it is considered biomass and is not subject to the UK’s ETS, the cost impact is minimal.”

Trial data presented by Liberty showed higher natural gas consumption for ecoke100, compared with anthracite, along with “slightly higher” other costs including for power.

Liberty has been able to reduce its carbon footprint immediately with ecoke100, while maintaining high quality steel production, it added.

Ecoke opens up significant opportunities across Liberty’s global business and steel industry worldwide, the company said. Liberty produces steel in Europe and Australia at several EAFs and blast furnace works.

CPL has positioned Ecoke for use by the steel and metals industries with existing production processes and handling equipment. The company was expanding to offer various ecoke grades, while seeing the EAF charge carbon market as a significant area for growth, based on CPL’s existing ecoke capacity.

CPL procures and processes a range of solid fuels and biomass materials for a range of its business activities, and has its own briquetting plants at Immingham, facilitating shipments from the North Sea.

Author Hector Forster