The supply of raw materials is a key issue for the world steel industry. worldsteel manages projects that examine the availability of raw materials, such as iron ore, coking coal, freight and scrap.
Scrap iron is mainly used in electric arc furnace steelmaking. As well as scrap arising from the making and using of steel, obsolete scrap from demolished structures and end-of life vehicles and machinery is recycled to make new steel. Around 500 million tonnes of scrap are melted each year.
Iron ore and coking coal are used mainly in the blast furnace process of ironmaking. For this process, coking coal is turned into coke, an almost pure form of carbon, which is used as the main fuel and reductant in a blast furnace.
Typically, it takes 1.5 tonnes of iron ore and around 450 kg of coke to produce a tonne of pig iron, the raw iron that comes out of a blast furnace. Some of the coke can be replaced by injecting pulverised coal into the blast furnace.
Iron is a common mineral on the earth’s surface. Most iron ore is extracted in opencast mines in Australia and Brazil, carried to dedicated ports by rail, and then shipped to steel plants in Asia and Europe.
Iron ore and coking coal are primarily shipped in capesize vessels, huge bulk carriers that can hold a cargo of 140,000 tonnes or more. Sea freight is an area of major concern for steelmakers today, as the high demand for raw materials is causing backlogs at ports, with vessels delayed in queues.
To see how steel is made, go to the steeluniversity.org steelmaking simulation.