Liberty successfully completes magnetite testing for hydrogen DRI-EAF production  

Liberty has successfully tested its magnetite at specialised facilities in Egypt and Canada. Photo: Lars Lentz/Wikimedia Commons

Liberty Primary Metals Australia, part of GFG Alliance, has successfully tested its magnetite at specialised facilities in Egypt and Canada, surpassing quality and performance expectations. These results come as Liberty finalises the design of its integrated hydrogen DRI-EAF green steel plant in Whyalla, which is set to be operational in 2027.

With increasing demand for low-carbon technologies like DRI, the need for high-quality magnetite iron ore is headed to unprecedented levels. The best magnetite has very low impurities and very high iron concentration that are essential for efficient hydrogen DRI processes, enabling higher steel grades with less energy consumption, and very low carbon emissions. Liberty’s iron ore mines, located just 60km from the Whyalla steelworks, have the potential to produce some of the highest-grade concentrate in the world from over 4 billion tonnes of magnetite ore resource.

Liberty has recently completed “basket testing,” where its high-grade magnetite was run through full-scale Direct Reduction Iron units (DRI). The test pellets outperformed the reference pellets currently used in standard operating conditions at both the Midrex facility in Canada and the Danieli (Tenova HYL) facility in Egypt.  The results, described as outstanding for this stage of development, demonstrate the superior performance of LIBERTY’s magnetite in reducibility, metallics and overall gangue loading. Corem oversaw this test work on behalf of Danieli.

DRI-EAF Projects

 Liberty is making progress on the final design of its DRI-EAF industrial complex in Whyalla. Collaborating with leading equipment manufacturer Danieli, LIBERTY plans to install a cutting-edge electric arc furnace equipped with Q-One technology, allowing for a direct feed from renewable energy sources to melt scrap and DRI, a groundbreaking innovation.

Since announcing the contract with Danieli, LIBERTY has worked with leading engineering service providers, Swiss based, NPT and Asia Pacific based, Beca to optimise the project design. The updated design now integrates the DRI unit and hot charging capability to feed the sophisticated Q-One electric arc furnace, creating a seamless and highly energy efficient process. The final option engineering is expected to be completed by the end of May 2024. The combined DRI-EAF project is anticipated to be completed in 2027.

Throughout 2024, LIBERTY has collaborated closely with the South Australian Government on its transformation plans and gained further clarity on the availability and pricing of green hydrogen from South Australia’s 250Mw hydrogen power plant. These factors will influence the final specifications of the DRI unit.

LIberty participated at the South Australian Government’s exhibition at the World Hydrogen Conference in Rotterdam, where it is promoting Whyalla’s green steel transformation. South Australia’s Energy Minister, Tom Koustantonis, will visit Danieli in Italy to witness the progress and explore the capabilities of the new technologies.

Speaking after his keynote address at the World Hydrogen Conference in Rotterdam, Executive Chairman Sanjeev Gupta said:

“From Europe to Australia, the steel industry is undergoing a remarkable revolution. As we bid farewell to outdated and highly polluting coke ovens and blast furnaces, our industry is on the brink of an extraordinary transformation to green iron and green steel production based on DRI-EAF technologies.  This is especially the case in Whyalla, South Australia.

“We are excited to announce that our high-grade magnetite has been validated as among the best in the world, positioning Whyalla and Australia at the forefront of this revolution.

“With the final design and layout of our DRI-EAF nearing completion, we are eager to commence the construction phase of this remarkable project, which we aim to complete within three years.

“The unwavering support of the South Australian Government, with their trailblazing hydrogen initiative, further strengthens Whyalla’s advantages.

Commenting on the Federal Government’s Budget, and new funding for hydrogen, Sanjeev said:

“With the funding and support package announced this week, the Federal Government of Australia is showing its determination to capture the huge economic and environment rewards from a new green hydrogen economy.

“This package will rival governments around the world and will show to our employees, partners and investors that Australia is the place to invest in hydrogen and clean industries such as green iron and steel, as we are doing in Whyalla.”