Iron and steel production is the second largest source of man-made industrial CO2 emissions, responsible for an estimated 2.6 billion tonnes per year, or approximately 7%* of global industrial emissions. Mitigating CO2 emissions from the iron and steel industry will be critical to ensuring we can simultaneously meet our goals for social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Between 80 and 85% of the industry’s CO2 footprint is linked with the production of iron, as 90% of all iron is produced by metallurgical coal- and coke-fuelled blast furnaces, producing nearly 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of iron produced.
Iron produced via direct reduction of iron ore using a ‘syngas’ of hydrogen and carbon monoxide (made from natural gas) in a shaft furnace is a less CO2-intensive method, at around 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of iron; however, this process route has traditionally been more expensive, and hence only 10% of the world’s iron is produced by this method. The method requires cheap natural gas, as well as pelletisation of iron ores to prevent fines loss.
Methods to lower the carbon footprint of iron production have started to consider using green hydrogen as the major reductant instead of natural gas and coal. The use of hydrogen in blast furnaces is being tested, but there are limits on the amount of coal it could replace due to a reduction in the conversion rate of iron ore to iron.
Calix’s ZESTY uses green hydrogen in a renewably powered reactor to produce green iron and ultimately, green steel.
ZESTY’s unique, indirect heating approach not only enables efficient electrification, but means hydrogen is not consumed as a fuel, only a reductant, and is easily recycled in the process. This significantly lowers operating temperatures and potentially enables the most efficient and economical use possible of hydrogen.
ZESTY’s ability to handle small particle sizes has the potential to more easily remove impurities compared with other direct reduced iron (DRI) processes, which require pelletised and typically higher grade iron ores.
The ZESTY process produces green iron from multiple ore types for use in either conventional blast furnaces for lower carbon steel products or directly in electric arc furnaces (EAF) for zero emissions steel.the The ZESTY Steel process uses zero emissions lime produced by a Leilac kiln, while the lime can also scrub excess carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants from the exhaust gases.
Source: Climate change and the production of iron and steel. World Steel Association. 2021
With an increasing global population and vast regions of the world experiencing unprecedented levels of growth and prosperity (ie Asia), it is evident that the world will require record levels of urbanisation now and into the future.
According to UNIDO (United nations industrial development organization) a specialised agency of the United Nations, the world is expected to build a New York City equivalent every month for the next 40 years. This level of infrastructure demand will inevitably place a significant strain on the raw material supply chain and lead to more direct and indirect carbon emissions of businesses involved in processing and supplying the raw materials for this infrastructure boom.
Cement is one key ingredient that will be used to satisfy this insatiable demand, but with global carbon emissions of 8% directly related to its processing and production, there is an immediate need to begin decarbonising this process now and introduce new technologies to reduce intense carbon emissions.
Calix has been working with industry to reduce these carbon emissions by developing clinker substitutes that have characteristics on-par with OPC (Original Portland Cement) when utilised as a supplementary cement material (SCM).
The use of calcined clay blends as an SCM is an emerging technology showing promise as a sustainable substitute (e.g. LC3 technology or Limestone Calcined Clay Cement). When calcined clay is manufactured using Calix technology, it is activated so it can be used successfully as an SCM in cement and/or concrete production.
In the Calix Flash indirect heating process, a patented design, the clay particles do not come into direct contact with the heat source. This ensures the following:
The resulting calcined clay product, when used in blends such as LC3 cements (30% clay, 15% lime, 5% gypsum and 50% clinker), exhibits characteristics that are on-par with OPC. In Europe, new building codes incorporate the use of 50% clinker blends and in the US, the ASTM standards for 50% clinker blends are starting to be incorporated.
The use of SCM’s in cement and concrete are crucial in decarbonising the economy and unlocking between US $800 billion to US $1.9 trillion in the green built environment value pool (McKinsey and Company, 2022). Fly ash is one such SCM that has shown to be used satisfactorily in limited clinker substitution but with the shutting down of coal fired power plants across the globe due to increased regulatory pressures and emissions intensiveness, means output will be significantly reduced.
The US Energy and Information Administration (EIA, 2022) has reported that a significant reduction in fly ash production in the US by 30 million short tons (27.7 metric tonnes) is to be expected in 2023 from 2022 alone, which drastically reduces output of this SCM based cement.
Silica fume being another SCM used in cement production has great properties with regards to corrosion resistance to chemicals and high salty environments as experienced in marine environments, but requires specialist attention during construction phases of a project and its clinker substitution content (percentile) is significantly lower than that of clay. By using Calix’s patented electric calciner design for the calcination of clay for SCM based cement, the industry is well on the way to achieving the following goals.
These are important goals if the world is to meet 2050 global emissions targets and to keep the temperature increases to below 2˚C as outlined by the Paris Climate Agreement.
Calix and Pilbara Minerals have executed a formal joint venture agreement for an innovative decarbonised lithium refining project that aims to create a new, high value and low carbon intensity lithium product in the Pilbara. The joint venture follows a successful joint initial scoping study, and a close working relationship built over the past 18 months.
Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said, “Calix is delighted to formally announce our joint venture agreement with Pilbara Minerals for the development of a sustainable, high value mid-stream lithium product.
“Calix is focused on decarbonising our essential industries, utilising our core technology’s ability to electrify industrial processing, and minimise the waste and CO2 footprint of minerals.”
“We are excited to join forces with Pilbara Minerals and formalise our close working relationship built over the past 18 months. We will apply our combined capabilities to generate a more sustainable and valuable Australian lithium product.”
Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, Dale Henderson agreed, “It’s a great privilege to enter this partnership with Calix. The Mid-stream project has the potential to be a game changer for our industry.
“If successful, we will be able to deliver a superior product to market, that will attract a premium compared to spodumene concentrate, as well as a reduction in Scope 3 emissions within the lithium supply chain.”
The “mid-stream” project aims to produce a superior lithium export product via Calix’s calcination technology for sustainable processing of minerals.
The proposed renewably powered at-mine processing innovation is targeting a refined lithium salt product that greatly reduces the cost, waste, and CO2 footprint of Australian lithium, creating a significantly higher value export product.
The project includes the potential development of a demonstration plant at Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora Project and is supported by A$20m in Australian Government funding announced under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative. A Financial Investment Decision on the proposed demonstration plant is planned before the end of FY23.
Australia currently produces nearly half the world’s lithium, with the global market for lithium carbonate and equivalents projected to grow six times by 2030. Industrial decarbonisation tailwinds also continue to drive demand for renewably powered, low waste processing solutions for the materials of our future economy. A successful “mid-stream” project will enable the joint venture to license the technology to the global spodumene processing industry.
Calix is pleased to announce it has been awarded a $947,035 grant by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to help fund an eleven-month study for a Zero Emissions Steel TechnologY (ZESTY) iron demonstration plant.
The study will include the Basis of Design (BOD) and Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) for a renewably powered 30,000 tonne per annum demonstration plant for ZESTY iron.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said that ZESTY is a prime example of Australian innovation helping tackle global challenges.
“Decarbonising heavy industries like steel is a big challenge, and a big opportunity, and ARENA is looking to support companies like Calix that are developing potential solutions,” Mr Miller said.
Welcoming ARENA’s support for ZESTY, Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said, “We are grateful to ARENA for their support of our shared vision for decarbonised iron and steel in Australia. We look forward to continuing to work closely with ARENA and our partners in industry and academia towards achieving our environmentally and economically important goals.”
Iron and steel are materials essential to our economic prosperity and continued development. Responsible for 7% of global CO2 emissions, they are also one of our most carbon intensive and hard-to-abate industries.
Currently, approximately 90% of iron is produced by metallurgical coal and coke-fuelled blast furnaces (BFs). This conventional method of iron ore reduction is responsible for 80-85% of the industry’s CO2 footprint. As the second largest source of industrial emissions after cement and lime, iron and steel producers are under intense pressure to decarbonise.
Calix’s ZESTY uses green hydrogen in a renewably powered reactor to produce green iron and ultimately, green steel.
ZESTY can be electrically heated and is compatible with intermittent sources of renewable generation and grid load balancing applications. The unique, indirect heating approach not only enables efficient electrification, but also removes sources of combustion and the generation of hydrogen-oxygen flames, allowing a simpler design and processing at significantly lower temperatures than a conventional BF.
Unlike other direct reduced iron (DRI) technologies, Calix’s indirect heating of the reduction reaction with renewable power means hydrogen is not consumed as a fuel, only as a reductant, and is easily recycled in the process. As such, ZESTY is targeting the minimum hydrogen use of 54kg of hydrogen per tonne of iron, enabling more efficient and economical production of green iron and steel.
ZESTY’s ability to handle small particle sizes has the potential to more easily remove impurities compared with other (DRI) processes, which require pelletised and typically higher grade iron ores. Further testing and validation of this potential is underway.
ZESTY iron aims to enable steel producers to add green iron directly into their existing processes to provide a simple and efficient route to emissions reduction.
ZESTY steel aims to enable steel producers to add ZESTY directly into their process to produce lower carbon, and ultimately zero emissions steel products.
Calix’s ZESTY steel process involves the use of the ZESTY iron process feeding a standard (continuous) electric arc furnace (C-EAF), with the addition of a Leilac kiln to produce zero-emissions lime. No pelletisation of the lime is required, while the lime can also be used to scrub excess carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants from the exhaust gases.
The $947,035 grant from ARENA will provide approximately 48% of the funding for an eleven-month study for a 30,000 tonne per annum ZESTY-iron demonstration plant.
The proposed renewably powered ZESTY-iron plant will produce green hydrogen for the direct reduction of iron ore to sponge iron. With no carbon involved throughout the process, the proposed ZESTY reactor will demonstrate a new approach to zero emissions iron and steel.
Calix’s ZESTY demonstration plant will also be compatible with intermittent operation, enabling economical use of low cost renewable power and will be compatible with load balancing applications for the energy grid.
The project will cover both the BOD and the FEED study required to determine the final location, specification and cost of the demonstration plant before a Final Investment Decision is taken.
The project will also further establish key partnerships in industry across the hydrogen, iron ore and renewables sectors, in addition to possible end users of green iron through the Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition Cooperative Research Centre (HILT CRC), facilitating knowledge sharing and the ongoing development of an ecosystem for sustainable heavy industry in Australia.
Australia supplied over 53% of the world’s iron ore in 2021, contributing nearly 44% of Australia’s total export earnings. Haematite, however, makes up 96% of Australia’s exported iron ore and is not suited to most electric arc furnace (EAF) methods.
Compatibility of future green steel processes with the various iron ore grades currently used in conventional BFs will be essential to the efficient decarbonisation of the steel industry, and potentially vital to Australia’s future economic prosperity.
Calix Managing Director and CEO, Phil Hodgson said that the decarbonisation of iron and steel represents a unique opportunity for Australia.
“This project aims to further develop a homegrown Australian technology that we believe, together with Australia’s leading iron ore and renewable energy resources, can help make Australia a leading exporter of not just iron ore, but green iron and green steel,” Dr Hodgson said.
Calix’s ZESTY seeks to facilitate the transition to green steel, adding value to local iron ore exports as well as future-proofing local iron and steel production. ZESTY is compatible with multiple iron ore types, including haematite, providing pathways for one of Australia’s most important exports to become sustainable in a low carbon world.
ZESTY-iron is being developed to enable Australian producers to transition towards exporting higher value green hot briquetted iron (HBI) instead of iron ore. The use of HBI to make steel in both Basic Oxygen Furnaces (BOF) and EAFs is proven, and zero emissions HBI would significantly reduce the emissions footprint of both processes, as the energy demand to reduce iron ore accounts for the vast majority of energy consumption in steelmaking.
Australia’s combination of globally leading iron ore and renewable energy resources promises to provide a unique global competitive advantage for green iron production. With current iron prices around three to four times the value of iron ore, the processing of iron ore to metallic iron, and particularly green iron, represents a significant opportunity for Australia to secure and enhance its share of global iron exports, and capture more value from its most exported resource.
ARENA CEO, Darren Miller agreed, “With abundant renewable energy resources and the world’s largest iron ore deposits, we have a unique opportunity to decarbonise an industry that is critical to the global economy.
“We’re looking forward to the outcomes of this study and hope to see ZESTY play an important role in the future of Australian iron and steel.”
A leader in innovation
Dr Keyte is a senior executive with a background inresearch and development, strategy and innovation. She has a strong track record of managing diverse stakeholders, delivering complex projects to drive commercial outcomes and has demonstrated the ability to successfully develop and grow new business from concept to commercialisation and profitability. With more than 20 years experience in heavy industry and building materials, Dr Keyte has previously held roles in innovation development, research and development and product development. Most recently, she was the General Manager, Innovation, at Australia’s largest integrated construction materials company, Boral.
As the Calix Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Dr Keyte will drive the efficient innovation, commercialisation and deployment of all applications of the Calix technology. As General Manager (GM), Sustainable Processing, Dr Keyte will lead the development and execution of the strategy for one of Calix’s key industrial decarbonisation business lines, leveraging the Calix technology platform for applications in minerals and chemical processing. Additionally, Dr Keyte will join the Calix Executive Team, making a valuable contribution to the achievement of Calix’s safety, health, environment, governance and sustainability goals.
The decarbonisation of industry in the pursuit of a net zero economy is one of the greatest global challenges. Industries such as cement, lime, iron and steel provide the foundations of our societies and economies. They also represent approximately 15% of global CO2 emissions and require urgent, affordable and scalable decarbonisation solutions.
The transition to net zero will also require vastly increased use of minerals essential to the decarbonisation of economies. From lithium for batteries to metals used in advanced manufacturing, the materials of the future also require sustainable processing solutions.
Calix is applying its unique calcination technology to enable the urgent and economical decarbonisation of essential industries. By separating the heat source from the chemical reaction, Calix’s technology is enabling the electrification of industry, the efficient capture of unavoidable CO2 emissions, and green industrial processing solutions.
“I am very pleased to be joining Calix and its purpose-driven team to help the company achieve its potential as a leading global innovator of industrial solutions for the environment, addressing some of our most pressing global challenges. I strongly believe that Calix’s technology platform offers unique capabilities to decarbonise our essential industries and help to create the sustainable materials of the future.” – Dr Louise Keyte
Calix Limited and Pilbara Minerals are developing a Joint Venture known as the Sustainable Lithium Chemical Concentration project (SLiCC project), following a successful scoping study conducted late last year. The purpose of the SLiCC project is to manufacture a low-carbon, high-quality lithium salt for global distribution using Calix’s patented technology. This will involve the construction of a demonstration facility at Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora Mine Site, located two hours south of Port Headland in Western Australia. The Pilgangoora deposit is one of the world’s largest lithium resources and is strategically important within the global lithium supply chain.
Historically, ore mined at Pilgangoora underwent processing to manufacture a spodumene concentrate that was then shipped overseas for use in lithium battery production. The SLiCC project, however, moves lithium production to Australia by facilitating the processing of fine, lower grade spodumene concentrate followed by further chemical processing on-site to create a concentrated lithium salt.
In May 2022 the SLiCC project received grant funding of $20 million under the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) – Manufacturing Translation Stream. The grant will support the design, procurement, construction and commissioning of the demonstration plant at the Pilgangoora Site.
Pilbara Minerals and Calix have entered into an amended and binding Memorandum of Understanding, supporting the development of a “mid-stream” lithium chemicals opportunity at Pilgangoora.