How Steel is made?

Updated on: 28/03/2022

Coke making

The coking process consists of heating coking coal to around 1000-1100ºC in the absence of oxygen to drive off the volatile compounds (pyrolysis). This process results in a hard porous material – coke. Coke is produced in a coke battery, which is composed of many coke ovens stacked in rows into which coal is loaded. The coking process takes place over long periods of time between 12-36 hours in the coke ovens. Once pushed out of the vessel the hot coke is then quenched with either water or air to cool it before storage or is transferred directly to the blast furnace for use in iron making.

Iron making
During the iron-making process, a blast furnace is fed with the iron ore, coke and small quantities of fluxes (minerals, such as limestone, which are used to collect impurities). Air which is heated to about 1200°C is blown into the furnace through nozzles in the lower section. The air causes the coke to burn, producing carbon monoxide which reacts with the iron ore, as well as heat to melt the iron. Finally, the tap hole at the bottom of the furnace is opened and molten iron and slag (impurities) are drained off.

Basic oxygen furnace (Steelmaking)
The most commonly applied process for steel-making is the integrated steel-making process via the Blast Furnace – Basic Oxygen Furnace. In the basic oxygen furnace, the iron is combined with varying amounts of steel scrap (less than 30%) and small amounts of flux. A lance is introduced in the vessel and blows 99% pure oxygen causing a temperature rise to 1700°C. The scrap melts, impurities are oxidised, and the carbon content is reduced by 90%, resulting in liquid steel.

Other processes can follow – secondary steel-making processes – where the properties of steel are determined by the addition of other elements, such as boron, chromium and molybdenum, amongst others, ensuring the exact specification can be met. Optimal operation of the blast furnace demands the highest quality of raw materials – the carbon content of coke therefore plays a crucial role in terms of its effect in the furnace and on the hot metal quality. A blast furnace fed with high quality coke requires less coke input, results in higher quality hot metal and better productivity.

Around 0.6 tonnes (600 kg) of coke produces 1 tonne (1000 kg) of steel, which means that around 770 kg of coal are used to produce 1 tonne of steel through this production route. Basic Oxygen Furnaces currently produce about 74% of the world’s steel. A further 25% of steel is produced in Electric Arc Furnaces.

Source : Metallurgical Engineering

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