Metalloinvest has contracted with Primetals Technologies and consortium partner Midrex Technologies, Inc. to supply a new US$600 million HBI Plant (HBI-4) at Lebedinsky GOK (LGOK).

The plant will be located in Gubkin, Russia, and will be designed to produce 2.08Mt (metric tons) of HBI per annum.

The new plant, says Metalloinvest, offers modern design features to ensure reduced energy consumption and environmental impact. The project will create 375 highly qualified jobs and is expected to be operational in the first half of 2025. The first product will be produced in December 2024, it is claimed.

HBI is a low-carbon raw material used for steel production in electric furnaces (EAFs) and generates up to 50% less CO2 (scope 1 + scope 2) than the traditional blast-furnace method. The contracted plant can be converted to use up to 100% hydrogen as a reducing agent, which makes possible further emissions reductions. Midrex and Primetals Technologies will be responsible for engineering, supply of main technological equipment and supervision services.

The agreement was signed by Nazim Efendiev, CEO of Metalloinvest; Stephen Montague, president and CEO of Midrex; Aashish Gupta, executive vice president of Primetals, and Etsuro Hirai, CEO of Primetals, during an official forum between Austrian and Russian governmental delegations in Vienna.

Earlier this year Mikhailovsky HBI, which was jointly established by USM and Mikhailovsky GOK (part of Metalloinvest), contracted Midrex and Primetals for another HBI plant to be built in Russia.

Additional production volume will secure Metalloinvest’s leading position on global HBI market.

“Two new facilities will double [the] joint production capacity of USM and Metalloinvest – from 4.6 to 9 Mt of HBI per year.”

Nazim Efendiev, CEO of Metalloinvest.

Nazim Efendiev, CEO of Metalloinvest, said that the two new facilities will double the joint production capacity of USM and Metalloinvest from 4.6Mt to 9Mt of HBI per annum. “This will strengthen our position as a leading provider of this crucial element in the transition to greener steel production. That is a significant milestone in the global steel industry’s decarbonisation efforts. We highly appreciate the expertise of our partners Primetals and Midrex, and we are looking forward to jointly implementing the project according to our tight deadlines”.

Stephen Montague, president and CEO of Midrex said: “HBI-4 will further increase Metalloinvest’s dominant position to supply merchant HBI to meet the growing demand for low-CO2 metallics. Our H2-ready technology is the right step towards green steelmaking and carbon neutrality”.

“HBI helps steel producers to reduce the carbon footprint of their products while increasing its competitiveness. Together with Alisher Usmanov’s companies, we are creating the basis for the development and steady movement forward of the European green metallurgy”.

Etsuro Hirai, CEO of Primetals Technologies.

Metalloinvest, Primetals Technologies and Midrex Technologies have successfully implemented a 1.4Mt/yr HBI plant (HBI-2) started up in 2007 and a 1.8Mt/yr facility (HBI-3) in 2017. All three currently operational HBI modules at Lebedinsky GOK (HBI-1, HBI-2 and HBI-3) jointly produce 4.6Mt/yr of HBI.

According to Metalloinvest, the new contract ‘once again proves’ that Midrex Direct Reduction Technology is the leading technology in the market with a market share of 80%. The new facility includes a 7.15m diameter Midrex shaft furnace and a proprietary Midrex Reformer that uses low NOx burners for NOx reduction. An increased top gas pressure ensures higher furnace productivity and reduced power consumption. A flue gas hot fan additionally reduces electric power consumption. Furthermore, a hot fines recycling system will be included. Level 1 and level 2 automation systems, including the DRIpax expert system, are also part of the project.

The Midrex Plant produces HBI from iron ore pellets using the natural gas-based Midrex Direct Reduction Process (Midrex NG) – the most environmentally friendly technology for ore-based ironmaking, claims Metalloinvest. Compared to traditional ironmaking technologies, says the company, the carbon footprint of a Midrex NG plant is reduced by more than 50% compared with blast furnace ironmaking. By replacing natural gas with green hydrogen, there is potential to further decrease carbon emissions in the future, it is claimed. The contracted plant is capable of being converted in the future to use up to 100% hydrogen as a reducing agent.