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Rio Tinto Plans To Develop Larger-scale Pilot Plant For Low-carbon Iron-making

Rio Tinto Plc. said it plans to develop a larger-scale pilot plant for low-carbon iron-making, after a small-scale pilot plant in Germany proved effectiveness of its low-carbon iron-making process.

The process, known as BioIron, uses raw biomass instead of metallurgical coal as a reductant and microwave energy to convert Pilbara iron ore to metallic iron in the steelmaking process. BioIron has the potential to support near-zero CO2 steel-making, and can result in net negative emissions if linked with carbon capture and storage.

Over the past 18 months, the process has been tested extensively in Germany by a project team from Rio Tinto, sustainable technology company Metso Outotec, and the University of Nottingham's Microwave Process Engineering Group, Rio Tinto said.

The BioIron process will now be tested on a larger scale, at a specially designed continuous pilot plant with a capacity of one tonne per hour. The design of the pilot plant is underway and Rio Tinto is considering suitable locations for its construction.

The BioIron process works using lignocellulosic biomass including agricultural by-products (wheat straw, canola stalks, barley straw, sugar cane bagasse) or purpose-grown crops. The biomass is blended with iron ore and heated by a combination of combusting gases released by the biomass and high-efficiency microwaves that can be powered by renewable energy.

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