Rio Tinto’s HIsmelt pilot plant at Kwinana in Australia is to be dismantled and moved to China’s Shandong province.

In 2011, an agreement was signed with India’s Jindal Steel & Power Ltd to relocated it to its steelworks at Angul, Odisha (Orissa), but this was cancelled as it involved making too many changes. The Chinese company Molong will develop the technology with Rio Tinto. Start-up of the 500kt/y pilot plant is planned for 2014.

JSPL will still have an interest in developing the process and plans to build a larger 1-1.2Mt/y unit at Angul after the pilot runs in China. This is envisaged for construction in 2015, with production starting in the following year. The plant will be locally built with some components imported. A consortium has been formed by JSPL, the Chinese company and Rio Tinto and stakes in the pilot plant in China are now being worked out.

Molong’s normal supply of liquid pig iron have been stopped for environmental reasons and it is not permitted to build a conventional blast furnace. HIsmelt is claimed to be the only technology capable of producing liquid pig iron at the required capacity and environmental standard.

HIsmelt (High Intensity smelting) is a technology owned by Rio Tinto and is said to be ideal for India as it can directly use iron ore fines and noncoking coal, abundantly available in India. It is said to be environmentally friendly and more economical than traditional methods. However, it is not easy to stabilise a new technology, especially one that was not commercially proven, and one where there was a high cost of dismantling a plant and shipping it to India.

JSPL is planning to invest Rs 230000M ($4.24bn) in the next three years to increase its steelmaking capacity to 14 Mt/y. Of this, about Rs 140000M ($2.58bn) will be invested on JSPL’s upcoming 6Mt/y steel plant at Angul. The Company has plans to commission the first phase of the plant with 1.5Mt/y capacity, in the next quarter 2013, while the remainder will become operational by 2015.

Currently JSPL has 3Mt/y production capacity at its Raigarh plant in Chhattisgarh. It also has a 2Mt/y plate mill at Angul and has a wire rod mill and a bar mill at Patratu, Jharkhand.

In Europe, a HIsmelt reactor has been combined with a cyclone pre reducer in a demonstration plant at Tata Steel IJmuiden. Known as HIsarna, this is part of the European ULCOS project seeking methods for low CO2 emission steelmaking.