6 June 2024
by Alex Brinded

Rio Tinto cashes in on low-carbon steel

Rio Tinto is investing US$143mln to develop a low-carbon steelmaking facility in Western Australia.

Pilbara Operations, Yandicoogina mine, Australia

© Rio Tinto

The miner will use the R&D facility south of Perth to assess its low-carbon iron-making process, Biolron.

The development comes after reportedly successful trials of the process in a small-scale pilot plant in Germany.

BioIron uses raw biomass and microwave energy, instead of coal, to convert Pilbara iron ore to metallic iron in the steelmaking process.

Rio Tinto claims that combining this with renewable energy and carbon-circulation from fast-growing biomass can reduce carbon emissions by up to 95% compared to using a blast furnace.

The pilot plant will be ten times bigger than its German predecessor, and the first time the steelmaking process has been tested at a semi-industrial scale - able to produce one tonne of direct reduced iron per hour.

The gathered data will be used to assess further scaling of the technology to a larger demonstration plant.

The plant has been designed in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, UK, Metso Corporation and Western Australian engineering company Sedgman Onyx.

Equipment fabrication will begin this year, with commissioning expected in 2026.


Alex Brinded

Staff Writer