A new 1.8Mt/yr Midrex hot briquetted iron (HBI) plant in Gubkin, Russia, has completed a performance guarantee test (PGT).

The plant is owned and operated by Metalloinvest Management Company, which comprises a mining division (Lebedinsky GOK or LGOK, and Mikhailovsky GOK) and a steel division (Oskol Elektrometallurgical Plant, or OEMK). The plant relies upon a Midrex HBI-3 system supplied by Primetals Technologies and US-based Midrex Technologies.

Metalloinvest is Russia’s biggest iron mining company and a leading producer and supplier of iron ore and ore-based metallic iron products.

Commissioning of Midrex HBI-3, the second of its kind on-site, began in early 2017. Preliminary acceptance was received on 15 March, the PGT was completed in May and a Performance Test Certificate (PTC) was issued at the end of June.

According to Primetals Technologies, test parameters included HBI production, HBI physical and chemical characteristics, the plant’s key natural gas and electricity consumption and environmental/emissions impacts. Midrex HBI-3 achieved 100% of the test parameters during its first attempt at the PGT.

The supply of the Midrex HBI-3 plant formed a key part of LGOK’s development strategy. The company intends to strengthen its position in the global HBI market and significantly increase its production volumes of high-value-added iron ore products.

Parent company Metalloinvest took advantage of expanded project financing (export credit financing) through Primetals and Midrex, both of whom were responsible for the engineering and supply of mechanical and electrical equipment, steel structure, piping, ductwork, training and advisory services.

Primetals claims that the new plant produces high-quality HBI from iron ore pellets using the natural gas-based Midrex Direct Reduction Process (Midrex NG). By using natural gas to make HBI, the technology is free of the emissions associated with coke and sinter production, says Primetals. Furthermore, it is claimed that HBI production displays ‘a significantly higher energy efficiency and a significantly lower carbon footprint’ than traditional blast furnaces.

In 2005, the same Primetals/Midrex consortium supplied the plant with its first HBI module, which commenced operation in 2007. In each of the last five years, the plant has operated over its 1.4Mt/yr (metric tons) design capacity, and on 26 April 2015 it produced its 10 millionth ton of HBI.

The plant’s HBI-3 Module will increase the company's HBI production capabilities to 4.5 Mt/yr (metric tons) strengthening Metalloinvest´s lead in the commercial HBI market and boosting its global share to over 40%. The feed for the new HBI plant consists of pellets produced by LGOK iron ore.

Metalloinvest also owns the Oskol Electrometallurgical Works (OEMK) in the city of Stary Oskol in the Belgorod region of Russia. Primetals claims that the OEMK plant is one of the most up-to-date steelmaking enterprises in Russia. It employs Midrex DRI technology and EAF steelmaking. It is claimed that the plant produces high quality steel ‘free of detrimental impurities and residual elements’ and meeting a stable high demand in Russia and abroad.