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International Iron Carbide LLC
Iron making technology to revolutionize steelmaking

Technology

Iron Carbide

A new commodity for the 21st Century steel industry ‒ iron carbide is a premium reduced iron product that drives quality and provides sustained environmental benefits.

The chemical formula for iron carbide is Fe3C.  It is a chemical compound containing three iron atoms combined with one carbon atom. Iron carbide possesses considerable contained chemical energy, but is stable at ambient temperatures. It is free of residual metals and sulfur. It dissolves instantly in molten iron and steel and contributes energy to steelmaking. Moreover, iron carbide removes nitrogen and hydrogen more effectively than any other means.

Iron carbide is safe and easy to ship. It is easy to use in EAFs and BOFs, and is the most economical method for producing high quality steels.

Typical Composition

Mineralogy Elements
Fe3C 90-96%   Fe (total) 89-93%
Fe3O4 5-2%   C (as Fe3C) 6.0-6.5%
Fe (metal) 0.5-3.0%   O (as Fe3O4) 0.5-1.5%
SiO2 + Al2O3 1-4%   SiO2 + Al2O3 1-4%

Sulfur is not present.

Residual metals ‒ copper, zinc, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, and tin ‒ are insignificant.

Phosphorous content depends on the ore used.

Size

Iron carbide typically is sized from +0.1 to -1.0 mm with an 80% passing size of 0.4-0.5 mm.

Physical Characteristics

Iron carbide granules are hard and free-flowing.

Product Application

Iron carbide can be supplied hot or cold.

Cold iron carbide is intended for later use or shipment. Unlike direct reduced iron (DRI) or hot briquetted iron (HBI), iron carbide does not require briquetting, passivating, or stabilizing with a binder.

Using hot iron carbide provides high energy efficiency.

Benefits to EAF Steelmaking

Steelmakers can easily inject iron carbide into electric arc furnaces (EAFs) using submerged lances. The iron carbide dissolves instantly in hot metal. The carbon reacts with iron oxides forming carbon monoxide and releasing energy.

The fine carbon monoxide bubbles generate a vigorous metal boil, thus rapidly homogenizing the bath and sweeping through the steel absorbing nitrogen and hydrogen. For this reason, iron carbide is the premium material for electric arc furnaces. The generation of gas bubbles produces a foaming slag, which reduces EAF energy losses.

Moreover, the yield of iron units to metal is the highest of any feed (being virtually complete), because the ample carbon reduces any iron oxides to metallic iron.

Read more about using iron carbide in EAFs

Benefits to BOF Steelmaking

With basic oxygen furnaces (BOFs), the chemical energy in iron carbide enables steelmakers to use less hot metal to make the same amount of steel.

Process

The iron carbide manufacturing process is clean and simple. Iron ore is converted to iron carbide in a fluidized-bed reactor, by contacting the iron ore with methane and hydrogen. The only by-products are water and carbon dioxide. The oxygen associated with the iron ore feed is removed entirely by hydrogen, producing only water vapor inside the reactor. The process generates the lowest carbon emission of all the routes for producing virgin steel.

iron carbide manufacturing process

The iron carbide manufacturing process steps include:

  • Heating iron ore to approximately 700°C (1300°F).
  • Contacting the hot iron ore with pressurized natural gas and hydrogen at an absolute pressure of 4.5 atmospheres in a fluid-bed reactor. This is where the strong reducing gases convert iron oxide to iron carbide.
  • Cooling the product to 65°C (150°F).
  • Ancillary equipment includes a hydrogen reformer, a fired process gas heater, heat exchangers, compressors, and a process gas scrubber.

See simplified process flow sheet

See photographs of constructed plants

Read more about the iron carbide manufacturing process

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