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Project overview


Comparative investigation of metallurgical performances of direct-reduced Pilbara ore products in electric smelting furnaces using hightemperature experimental and computational modelling. 


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 low to medium grade Pilbara ore in net-zero emission steelmaking processes and to decarbonise domestic steel production. Near-term investment in innovative R&D is a critical enabler in rapidly developing the technologies required for transitioning to a net zero state. Projects supported by the Iron and Steel R&D Funding Round seek to accelerate innovative low emissions iron and steel technologies using Australian iron ore.  


The project aims to examine the viability of Australia’s abundant, low-medium grade Pilbara iron ores in a breakthrough, low-emissions, electric smelting furnace (ESF)-based steelmaking route. The primary objective is to compare the performance and suitability of three DR Pilbara ore products (lump, fines and pellets) for hot metal production through an ESF using a combined high temperature experimental-computational modelling approach. 


Core Research Stage 

In the Core Research Stage, the Recipient aims to assess the pelletising performance of Pilbara iron ore fines, assess the reduction/melting behaviours of DR Pilbara ore products produced using up to 100% hydrogen, and measure key properties of slags necessary for understanding ESF operations. 

Research Commercialisation Stage 

In the Research Commercialisation Stage, the Recipient aims to investigate the production of commercial grade pellets with/without added steel plant by-products and assess the optimal operating conditions (e.g., energy consumption, production capability, design) of the ESF process to inform future pilot/demonstration scale experimentation. 


The objectives for the Project will be achieved through the following outcomes: 

  1. Reduction in, or removal of, barriers associated with using low to medium grade Australian iron ores in low emissions iron and steel production. 
  2. Further 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 the DRI-ESF process using Pilbara iron ores by addressing key research questions associated with: 
    • Palletisation performance of Pilbara ore fines with high loss on ignition. 
    • Reduction, carburisation and melting behaviours of different DR Pilbara ore products for the ESF process. 
    • Measurements of slag formation, property analysis and partition reactions between slag and metal; and 
    • ESF process development, control and efficiency 

Additional Impact

The project will provide long term capability, tools and knowledge essential for decarbonising domestic steel production. The project will also develop the skills and understanding of researchers and engineers in future low emission, ESF smelting steelmaking processes. The local Illawarra community will be engaged (for example) through seminars given to undergraduate students, U3A Australia (University of the 3rd Age) and other forums local to the Illawarra. 

Last updated 21 June 2024
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