Blast furnace productivity and the influencing parameters

Blast furnace productivity and the influencing parameters

Blast furnace (BF) is a process of iron making. During mid eighties BF technology got established and left behind other technologies of iron making. Since then continuous developments are taking place in this technology to make it more productive and economical. Even today it is offering very stiff opposition in the development of alternative iron smelting processes.

The blast furnace is a counter current reactor in which the reducing gas is produced by the gasification of the carbon of the coke with the oxygen of the hot blast injected via tuyeres in the lower part of the furnace. The reducing gas flows upwards reducing the iron bearing materials charged at the top of the furnace.

Blast furnace process consists of a multivariate system which is subjected to a large number of inter-influencing variables affecting the performance of the blast furnace. It is necessary to isolate the inter-influence of the variables to understand the role played each variable on the performance of the blast furnace. The performance of a blast furnace is determined by many parameters out of which productivity is the major one.

The blast furnace productivity is the quotient between possible gas throughput per unit of time and required specific gas generation for one ton of hot metal (HM). Hence an increase in the productivity on the one hand requires an increase in the gas throughput, which implies improvement in the furnace permeability and on the other hand a reduction in the specific gas requirement, which means a reduction in the specific consumption of reducing agent. Blast furnace productivity is usually expressed in tons of hot metal produced/day/Cum of working volume. In some countries, in place of working volume, useful volume is considered. There are many factors which influence the productivity of a blast furnace. Major amongst them are described below

  • Raw materials – Besides fuel/reducing agent, there are basically two types of major raw materials are charged in a blast furnace.
  1. The first one is iron bearing materials which are sinter, pellets and calibrated iron ore (CLO). The higher is the iron (Fe) in these materials means lower gangue material is going inside the furnace which needs to be fluxed for slag formation. Hence higher Fe content helps in the reduction of slag volume.  As per thumb rule 1 % increase in the Fe content increases the BF productivity by 1.5 %n to 2.5 %.
  2. The second raw material is the different type of fluxes (lime stone and dolomite). Lime stone and dolomite when charged in the blast furnace gets calcined inside the blast furnace. This calcination reaction needs heats which result into increase in the specific fuel consumption. If these fluxes are charged through sinter or pellets then the calcination reaction takes place outside the blast furnace and the blast furnace working volume is more effectively used by the iron bearing materials. This in turn improves the blast furnace productivity. Generally reduction of 100 Kg of flux in the burden improves the BF productivity by 3-5 %.
  3. For achieving higher productivity in a blast furnace it is essential that burden material provides high permeability and homogeneity across all furnace temperature and reaction zones. Further the burden material should have high reducibility to promote short retention time. Burden materials should also have low content of tramp elements such as zinc, lead and alkalies to avoid process disturbances.
  4. Blast furnace productivity greatly depend on the quality of sinter. Sinter should have optimum grain distribution, high strength, high reducibility, high porosity, softening temperatures greater than 1250 deg C, constant FeO content in the range of 7-8 % and constant basicity.
  • Fuel/reducing agent – Two types of fuels/reducing agents are used in the blast furnace. These are metallurgical coke (BF coke) which is charged from the top and pulverized coal/ natural gas/ coke oven gas/oil/coal tar which are injected at the tuyere level.
  1. BF coke influences the productivity of BF in many ways. High ash content in coke means charging the furnace with more slag forming materials which are to be fluxed to form slag. This results into higher slag volumes. As per thumb rule 1 % reduction in the ash content of the BF coke results into improvement in the BF productivity by 0.8 % to 1.5 %. Other properties of the BF coke which affects the productivity are CSR (coke strength after reaction), CRI (coke reactivity index), and micum indexes (M40 or I 40 and M10 or I 10) (Fig 1). These parameters affect the permeability in the stack and the mechanical strength of the coke at the tuyere level. M40 represents crushability of the coke and M10 wearability. Higher values of CSR and M40 and lower values of CRI and M10 result in improvement in the BF productivity. Sulphur content of the BF coke has also got its affect on the BF productivity. A decrease of sulphur content of coke by 0.1 % improves the BF productivity by 0.7 % to 1.2 %.
  2. Fuel (pulverized coal/ natural gas/ coke oven gas/oil/coal tar) injected at the tuyere level is normally accompanied by oxygen enrichment of the hot air blast. The injection of oxygen to the air blast reduces the specific flow of the gas causing a reduction in the top temperature and an increase in the adiabatic temperature (RAFT) in the tuyeres. These effects are compensated by the injection of substitute fuel. Thus a combined injection of oxygen and fuel at the tuyere level increases the productivity of the blast furnace. Every 1 % of oxygen enrichment of hot blast improves the productivity by 2-0 % to 2.5 %.

BF productivity

Fig 1 Role of BF coke properties on BF productivity

  • Control of burden distribution plays an important role in the improvement of the productivity of the blast furnace. The burden distribution control ensures a stable burden descent, adjusts the flow of gasses in the wall (this avoids high heat loads without generating inactive zone) and helps in achieving a good solid gas contact.
  • Decreasing the silicon content in the hot metal has a positive effect on the blast furnace productivity. Decrease in the silicon content is achieved due to better ore-coke relation and movement of cohesive area downwards. This generates a lower volume for the transfer of silicon to the hot metal. Decrease of silicon content in the hot metal by 1 % improves blast furnace productivity by 4 % to 12 %.
  • Properties of slag has considerable effect on the blast furnaace productivity. Lower specific volume of slag of lower viscosity improves the productivity of the blast furnace.
  • Tapping practice has an importanrt role to play in achievement of high productivity in a blast furnace. Good tapping practice will involve good tap hole length, timely opening of the tapping, control of tapping speed, proper hearth drainage and closing of tapping after furnace becomes dry. Quality of tap hole mass is very importanr for good tapping practice.
  • Automatic process control improves the furnace productivity since it minimize consumption of reductant, avoids furnace process disturbances such as hanging, slipping, scaffolding, gas channeling etc through an immediate counteraction by the system, stablizes hot metal and slag parameters etc. the effect of automatic process control on the blast furnace productivity is in the range of 3 % to 5 %.
  • Blast temperarure is other parameter which influence the productivity of the blast furnace. Blast furnace productivity will improve by 1 % with the blast temerature increasing by 100 deg C.
  • High top pressure also improves the productivity of the blast furnace. With every increase of top pressure of the blast furnace by 0.1 Kg/Sq cm there is an improvement in the productivity of the blast furnace in the range of 0.5 % to 1.5 %.
  • Decreasing of fines content in the charge materials improves blast furnace productivity in the range of 0.4 % to 0.7 %.