Molten Oxide Electrolysis for Iron Production: Identification of Key Process Parameters for Largescale Development

TitleMolten Oxide Electrolysis for Iron Production: Identification of Key Process Parameters for Largescale Development
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsAllanore, A, Ortiz, LA, Sadoway, DR
Secondary AuthorsNeelameggham, NR, Belt, CK, Jolly, M, Reddy, RG, Yurko, JA
JournalEnergy Technology 2011: Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gas Reduction Metallurgy and Waste Heat Recovery
Pagination121 - 129
Date Published2011///
Abstract

The steelmaking industry has drastically reduced its energy consumption in the last fifty years, and today's technologies are considered to operate at their optimal efficiency with respect to energy needs. To cope with new constraints related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a change of paradigm is necessary. One of the promising technologies that could be deployed to help reach CO2 mitigation targets relies on the intensive use of electricity: molten oxide electrolysis (MOE). This paper presents the key process parameters that need to be tuned to address the practical needs for both high productivity in a steelmaking reactor and for an energy efficient process. Herein we show that contrary to common perception, the electrolysis process for ironmaking requires less energy than today's chemical reduction route. Furthermore, we prove that most of the energy that must be provided to operate the electrolytic iron production cell is thermal energy which is readily generated by joule heating during electrolysis due to large currents being passed through the electrolyte. The energy consumption of the electrolysis cell is therefore shown to be highly dependent on the cell configuration and the chemistry of the electrolyte. As a consequence, the CO2-impact of the technology strongly depends on both the power production mode and the technological choices for design of the process, including cell configuration. Surprisingly enough, even when the electricity generation is not carbon-free, MOE still appears to be viable from the perspective of reducing GHG emissions providing sound reactor design considerations are made.