Iron Ore Agglomeration Techniques and its Historical Development
Sintering is one of the oldest and widely used agglomeration techniques. Its development dates back to the early 20th century. In this process, fine iron ore particles, along with fluxes and solid fuel, are mixed and ignited on a continuous traveling grate. The ignited mixture sinters and forms larger porous lumps called sinter, which is suitable for use in blast furnaces.
The concept of pelletization emerged in the 1940s. Pellets are small, spherical balls of iron ore, typically with a size range of 8-18 mm. This technique involves the formation of green pellets by mixing fine iron ore concentrate or finely ground iron ore with a binder, such as bentonite clay, and sometimes a fluxing agent. The green pellets are then indurated (hardened) by heating them in a furnace, which results in the formation of strong, heat-resistant pellets. Pelletization provides better control over the ironmaking process and allows for better quality control of the feed material.
Briquetting is another agglomeration technique that has been used for iron ore fines. It involves compressing the fines into briquettes with the help of a binder. The briquettes can be round, square, or any other shape, depending on the equipment used. Briquetting helps in utilizing iron ore fines, which are often considered waste material, and improves the handling and transportation characteristics of the fines.
Fluidized Bed Agglomeration:
Cold Bonding Techniques:
In the 1960s and 1970s, cold bonding techniques emerged as an alternative to traditional agglomeration methods. These techniques involve the use of organic binders, such as carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) or polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), to agglomerate iron ore fines at ambient or slightly elevated temperatures. Cold bonding techniques offer advantages such as lower energy consumption and reduced emissions compared to traditional agglomeration processes.
Composite Agglomeration Process (CAP):
Developed in the late 1990s, the Composite Agglomeration Process combines the principles of sintering and pelletization. In this process, iron ore fines are mixed with a small amount of finely ground coke breeze, along with a binder, and formed into composite pellets. These pellets are then sintered in a conventional sintering machine. CAP allows for the utilization of fine-sized iron ores and improves the productivity and efficiency of the sintering process.
Advanced Agglomeration Technologies:
In recent years, advanced agglomeration technologies have been developed to further enhance the agglomeration process. These technologies include microwave-assisted agglomeration, which utilizes microwave energy to heat and bind iron ore particles, and the use of nanomaterials as binders to improve pellet strength and reduce binder consumption. These advancements aim to optimize the agglomeration process, increase productivity, and reduce environmental impact.
Heat hardening is an agglomeration technique that gained prominence in the late 20th century. It involves the use of heat to agglomerate iron ore fines into pellets without the addition of binders. The fines are subjected to thermal treatment in a furnace, where the high temperatures cause the particles to adhere and form pellets. Heat hardening offers advantages such as reduced binder consumption and improved pellet strength.
Rotary Drum Agglomeration:
Rotary drum agglomeration, also known as balling drums, has been employed for iron ore agglomeration since the 1950s. This technique involves the tumbling of iron ore fines in a rotating drum with the addition of a liquid binder. As the drum rotates, the fine particles adhere to one another, forming larger agglomerates. The agglomerates are then discharged and can be further processed or directly fed into the ironmaking furnace.
Continuous agglomeration techniques have emerged as an alternative to batch processes, allowing for a more streamlined and efficient agglomeration operation. Continuous agglomeration systems, such as the Dwight-Lloyd and Grate-Kiln processes, enable the continuous production of pellets by moving the iron ore through a series of treatment zones, including drying, preheating, firing, and cooling. These processes provide better control over pellet quality and process parameters.
Over time, the development of iron ore agglomeration techniques has also been influenced by environmental considerations. Efforts have been made to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, and minimize the environmental impact of agglomeration processes. Technologies like flue gas recirculation, waste heat recovery systems, and the use of alternative fuels have been implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.
Automation and Process Control:
With the advancement of technology, automation and process control systems have been integrated into iron ore agglomeration plants. These systems monitor and control various parameters, such as temperature, moisture, and binder dosage, to ensure consistent and optimized agglomeration processes. Automation improves process efficiency, reduces human error, and allows for real-time adjustments to optimize product quality.
The historical development of iron ore agglomeration techniques has been driven by the need for efficient and sustainable ironmaking processes. The continuous innovation and optimization of agglomeration techniques have played a crucial role in the modern iron and steel industry, enabling the utilization of a wider range of iron ore sources, improving product quality, and reducing environmental impacts.