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Project overview
  • Lead Organisation

    Australian National University (ANU)


    Acton, Australian Capital Territory

    ARENA Program

    Iron and Steel Research and Development Funding Round

  • Start date

    1 March 2024

    End date

    7 April 2028

  • Project Partners
    Swinburne University of Technology
    The University of Newcastle
    HILT CRC Limited
    FMG Procurement Services Pty Ltd
    Grange Resources (Tasmania) Pty Ltd
    Roy Hill Holdings Pty Ltd
    Primetals Technologies Austria GmbH


This project seeks to de-risk key aspects of hydrogen direct reduced ironmaking as applied to Australian Pilbara ores via work on fluidised bed reactors and reactor kinetics, alternative ores, briquetting and a novel smelting process. 


This project was selected as part of the competitive Iron and Steel R&D Funding Round under the Transformative Research Accelerating Commercialisation (TRAC) Program to create solutions for Australian iron ore, predominantly comprised of lower grade ore from the Pilbara, and to decarbonise domestic steel production. Near-term investment in innovative R&D is a critical enabler to rapidly develop the technologies required to transition to a net zero future state. Projects supported by the Iron and Steel R&D Funding Round seek to accelerate novel and innovative low emissions iron and steel technologies using Australian iron ore. 

In this project, hydrogen direct reduction ironmaking (H2DRI) is examined in the context of Pibara iron ores. Preliminary work conducted in the Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition CRC has indicated that H2DRI, if combined with two-step smelter-BOF steelmaking, could be highly competitive even when applied to the frequently lower-grade ores from the Pibara. Although the process is understood, it has yet to be realised in commercial processing, and there are multiple aspects where significant technological risks remain. This project seeks to de-risk a number of the risks associated with this pathway, by improving understanding of the fluidised bed reduction process, both reactor design and chemical kinetics, by examining technoeconomics of end-to-end processes including with alternative/unconventional Pilbara ores, and by addressing issues to do with safely shipping hot-briquetted iron made with lower-grade ore, and examining novel approaches for smelting using these same ores.  

If successful, the project will contribute to a faster commercial adoption of H2DRI technology, especially the fluidised bed pathway applicable to the low-grade iron ore fines that form the majority of Australian ore exports, which would support a reduction in the emissions from the iron and steel industry from 1.95 tCO2e/t of liquid steel to 0.33 tCO2e/t. 


Active research has culminated in a planned prototype system in Austria with Primetals, Voestalpine and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) involvement. This project will complement and build upon that parallel effort, by applying novel approaches to tackle several technological risks associated with lower-grade Pilbara ores, and was also supported via prior work in the HILT CRC.

This project will de-risk the application of fluidised bed (FB) hydrogen direct DRI for lower-grade Pilbara iron ores to advance understanding of how to lower production costs, address key risks relating to particle stickiness and defluidisation in FB reactors, and specific challenges in getting DRI product to market. 

The project will yield fresh insights into cost-effective hydrogen DRI production from Pilbara ores, featuring innovative reactor designs, validated through experiments and advanced modelling at both component and system levels. Additionally, it will include techno-economic analysis, professional pre-feasibility studies, and a plan for upscaling and commercialising the most promising concepts to support Australia’s green steel platform.  


The objectives for the project will be achieved through the following Outcomes: 

  1. Reduction in or removal or barriers associated with using lower-grade Australian iron ores in low emissions iron and steel production; 
  2. Development of innovative and / or step change emissions abatement pathways for iron and steel production using Australian iron ores; 
  3. Increased research capacity in the Australian iron and steel sector, and the facilitation of collaboration between research groups and industry; 
  4. Improvement in the technology readiness and commercial readiness of iron and steel production technologies; 
  5. Development of technologies to reduce the risks of DRI including coatings and lower-temperature reactor cascades; 
  6. A targeted cost reduction of 10% from a combination of the technologies developed.  
Last updated
10 April 2024
Last updated 10 April 2024
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