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Steel Production

General process information

Steel production at an integrated steel plant involves three basic steps. First, the heat source used to melt iron ore is produced. Next the iron ore is melted in a furnace. Finally, the molten iron is processed to produce steel. These three steps can be done at one facility; however, the fuel source is often purchased from off-site producers.

Coke making
Coke is a solid carbon fuel and carbon source used to melt and reduce iron ore. Coke production begins with pulverized, bituminous coal. The coal is fed into a coke oven which is sealed and heated to very high temperatures for 14 to 36 hours. Coke is produced in batch processes, with multiple coke ovens operating simultaneously.
Heat is frequently transferred from one oven to another to reduce energy requirements. After the coke is finished, it is moved to a quenching tower where it is cooled with water spray. Once cooled, the coke is moved directly to an iron melting furnace or into storage for future use.
Iron making
During iron making, iron ore, coke, heated air and limestone or other fluxes are fed into a blast furnace. The heated air causes the coke combustion, which provides the heat and carbon sources for iron production. Limestone or other fluxes may be added to react with and remove the acidic impurities, called slag, from the molten iron. The limestone-impurities mixtures float to the top of the molten iron and are skimmed off after melting is complete.
Sintering products may also be added to the furnace. Sintering is a process in which solid wastes are combined into a porous mass that can then be added to the blast furnace. These wastes include iron ore fines, pollution control dust, coke breeze, water treatment plant sludge, and flux. Sintering plants help reduce solid waste by combusting waste products and capturing trace iron present in the mixture. Sintering plants are not used at all steel production facilities.
Steel making with the Basic Oxide Furnace (BOF)
Molten iron from the blast furnace is sent to a basic oxide furnace, which is used for the final refinement of the iron into steel. High purity oxygen is blown into the furnace and combusts carbon and silicon in the molten iron. The basic oxide furnace is fed with fluxes to remove any final impurities. Alloy materials may be added to enhance the characteristics of the steel.
The resulting steel is most often cast into slabs, beams or billets. Further shaping of the metal may be done at steel foundries, which remelt the steel and pour it into molds, or at rolling facilities, depending on the desired final shape.
BOF Pollution Sources and Prevention Opportunities
Different types of pollution result from the different steps in steel production. Below, the pollution sources and the possible pollution prevention opportunities are discussed for each process.

Diagram of a Steel Production Process

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