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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N011368/1
Title: Uncovering Fundamental Mechanisms to Enable Sustainable Steel Manufacturing
Principal Investigator: Li, Dr Z
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Tata Group UK
Department: WMG
Organisation: University of Warwick
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 April 2016 Ends: 31 March 2021 Value (£): 1,160,080
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufact. Enterprise Ops& Mgmt
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
02 Nov 2015 Manufacturing Fellows 5 Interviews Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Steel is a backbone material in modern society. Global steel demand is continuously growing and is forecast to double by 2050. Strict environmental regulations, new energy sources, government support for manufacturing, and restructuring of the steel industry in the UK and worldwide are creating the opportunity to revolutionise the industry to produce low carbon, high value added steels. This creates an urgent need for a strong UK research base in process metallurgy that will help transform the UK steel industry into more sustainable operations. This Fellowship aligns well with this urgent need for UK steel industry.

Under this EPSRC Manufacturing Fellowship, I will bring best practice in industry to academia. I will establish an internationally recognised multi-disciplinary research team, which will build the research (theoretical, experimental and modelling) capability and create the fundamental knowledge needed to realise transformative changes on extraction, refining and casting of steels, and address the future global mega trends in energy, CO2 regulation and oversupply. A key area of focus will be low carbon, low energy and flexible ironmaking process including HIsarna technology.

HIsarna process is a promising breakthrough technology, as an alternative to conventional blast furnace (BF) ironmaking, created under the ULCOS (Ultra-Low CO2 Steelmaking) project (www.ulcos.org). The concept of the HIsarna technology has been successfully validated by four operational campaigns from 2011 to 2014 on the pilot plant with the capacity of 60 kt per year of hot metal constructed at Tata Steel. The confirmed advantages include: very high energy efficiency; flexibility in feed materials (directly using thermal coal, fine iron ore, waste oxides) without coking and ore agglomeration; 20% or above primary energy and CO2 saving; possibly up to 80% CO2 emission reduction with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) of the top gas; and flexible operations. Significantly higher CO2 emission reduction by HIsarna (without CCS), 35% or above compared to current BF ironmaking, can be achieved by further combining simultaneous scrap melting, biomass injection (partially replacing coal) and hydrocarbon injection in the process.

However, a significant challenging road lies ahead for the HIsarna technology. One of the critical aspects for its up-scaling is that several critical scientific mechanisms have not been discovered due to its innovative nature, but will be uncovered in this Fellowship. These include (1) quantification of the dynamic interfacial phenomena in the reacting slag-metal droplet system due to the element (O, S etc) mass transfer at the slag-metal droplet interface and their important role on the fast reduction of FeO in slag, and (2) reaction mechanisms and rates between hydrocarbons and slag, metal and gases. Under this Fellowship I will also build the modelling capability (CFD model and dynamic process model) for development and optimisation of complex manufacturing processes.

The research capability and the critical knowledge created under this Fellowship will be applied to study more fuel-efficient and economical BF ironmaking by shale gas injection, direct reduced iron production by shale gas, phosphorus refining in basic oxygen steelmaking, high residual obsolete scrap recycling, and interfacial phenomena in the casting mould. Furthermore, a capability on extractive metallurgy will help the UK to develop processes for recovering critical materials from wastes and extracting Mg and Ti, and will also be useful to other areas such as gasification and geology where molten oxide phases are encountered.

This Fellowship will be held at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), University of Warwick, in collaboration with Tata Steel, the main steel producer in the UK. It will help unlock the potential of the UK steel industry to be more innovative, productive and competitive, whilst using fewer resources and reducing environmental impact.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.warwick.ac.uk