Ukrainian State Research Institute for Carbochemistry

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© Editor-in-Chief of Coal Chemistry Journal, Doctor of Technical Sciences, prof. E.T.Kovalev

About 60 companies from countries such as Australia, India, Canada, China, the USA, Ukraine and others participated in the 12th annual international meeting “Eurocoke Summit 2016” which was held in Barcelona (Spain) in April this year. The thematic focus of the meeting covered the most important issues affecting the state and development of world production of coal metallurgical coke, namely: forecasting the dynamics of changes in demand and supply in the short and medium term; approximation of basic research in the field of coal chemistry and its thermal transformations to real production needs; the work of the industry in the conditions of economic crisis - both regional and global level.

The materials of the meeting reflected the most important aspects of the state of the world market of coal, coke and metallurgical products. Thus, it was noted that, despite some increase in the level of steel production in the European Union, this indicator lags behind the pre-crisis 2007 year in the short term at the level of 3-4%, which is associated with a decrease in exports. The global growth of both production and consumption in the steel industry is provided only by the countries of the group BRICS. One of the main reasons for such a state of affairs should be considered the strict environmental legislation in force in “the Old World”. Compliance with its standards requires the introduction and continuous updating of the so-called "Best Existing Technologies" (BAT - The Best Available Techniques).

The situation is further aggravated by the high level of European electricity prices, which increase further as a result of the cost of environmental safety.

All this leads to a deterioration in the competitiveness of European products in comparison with countries that do not consider it necessary to make significant investments in the environment and, therefore, can maintain a low level of prices for steel products. The situation, a kind of competing dumping, makes manufacturers from Europe and the USA even more cautious about investing in their own metallurgical production — in other words; it is more profitable for these countries to use imported cheap metal than their own.

Europe’s own steel industry, so to speak, froze in a state of permanent technical re-equipment (this applies primarily to the so-called “Old Europe” countries and, to a lesser extent, to the new members of the European Union). At the same time, the EU’s leading positions in the environmental safety of metallurgical industries are costly, both in the direct and figurative sense of this expression.

In this regard, it is quite characteristic that, although steel consumption in China in 2015 decreased by almost 5.5%, its production decreased only slightly by more than 2%. This apparent imbalance is explained by the growth in exports of steel from China.

As to the coke itself, currently Chinese and Polish manufacturers are actively competing in the EU markets. The main consumer of Polish coke is Germany. At present, Chinese coke at the border is more expensive than the Polish average by 6-8 US dollars per ton.

All recommendations and conclusions regarding the use of BAT are binding for the coke plants of the European Union; as for the exact date of implementation, it is indicated in the regulations of specific EU member states. Thus, Poland, although perhaps with delays, will also have to follow the path of increasing investment in the environmental protection sector, which in the long term can not but affect the cost of production. Therefore, the noted price advantage over China is unlikely to persist for long.

Thus, the report of the Director of the Polish Institute of Coal Chemistry A. Sobolevsky “Emissions: readiness and innovations at coke plants” noted the following problematic issues on environmental standards for existing coke-chemical plants with a service life of more than 10 years: deeper cleaning of coke gas from hydrogen sulphide, reducing harmful emissions from cooling towers, improving the efficiency of monitoring emissions, improving the process of dedusting emissions into the atmosphere on the coke side of the battery. It should be noted that practically all Polish coke-chemical plants can be classified in this category by service life.

The medium-term (by 2020) prospect of Chinese coke exports is estimated at 10–15 million tons / year. Its cost will depend on the situation in the coal mining industry of China, where a significant reduction in production is expected during this period. It is appropriate to recall here that, according to the data of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise of Russia “Central Dispatch Management of the Fuel and Energy Complex” (http://www.cdu.ru/files/CountryUgol.pdf), in the pre-crisis 2009 China amounted to 3.05 billion tons, which was equivalent to 45.6% of world production. In the period 2000-2009 the average annual growth of this indicator in the country was 9.9%. For this period, the volume of coal production in China increased by 2.3 times. Recently, however, the Chinese government has taken measures to balance the coal market, primarily by reducing the consumption of steam coal.

It should be noted that the EU leadership does not want to exacerbate the dependence of its metal-consuming industries on imports. There is a tendency to address this issue by adjusting the rules of international trade towards obstructing dumping processes and, therefore, to reduce differences in the market competitiveness of European metal producers and major exporters.

One of the main factors that have a direct impact on the situation in coke chemistry is the state of the market of coking coal. Their largest producer is China (almost 54% of the world output according to 2014 data). Important players in this market segment are Australia (more than 17%), the Russian Federation (almost 7.5%), the USA (7%), India (almost 5%), Canada (about 3%), Mongolia and Poland (at the level of 1% each). The share of Ukraine and Kazakhstan accounts for approximately 1.5% of the world market of coking coal, but for our country with its developed metallurgy this is not enough to cover its own needs.

In 2011-2014 world production of coking coal grew steadily. Due to this, as well as a result of the decrease in the main producers' costs of production, the price of such products for the period mentioned has significantly decreased and in 2014 amounted to 70-80 US dollars per ton. The solidarity in the fall in world prices for all types of fossil fuels forced coking coal producers in the United States and Canada to restrict their production (according to the data of the beginning of 2016 - by 18 million tons). The general decline in the world production of coking coal grades was also a consequence of a reduction in production in the global ferrous metallurgy. For example, in the first quarter of 2016, the world steel production (excluding China) decreased from 204 to 192 million tons.

However, in accordance with the laws of the market, the decline in coal production, i.e. a decrease in its supply led not only to stabilization, but also to an increase in price. For example, at the beginning of the second quarter of 2016, the price of Australian coking coal exceeded $ 84 per ton. And according to later data for the week, from 5 to 12 September, the cost of a ton of coking coal on FOB Australia terms increased to $ 185 (http://minprom.ua/digest/217749.html). One of the main factors contributing to this process was the above mentioned reduction in coal production in China. Here is the data for different periods of 2016 (http://minprom.ua/digest/217749.html; https://www.vedomosti.ru/economics/news/2016/01/25/)

As to the steel industry itself, for example, the rate of decline in iron smelting in China, according to the data for the first half of the year, was about 12%, while the level of this indicator for other countries was less than 9%. At the same time, Chinese coke exports (two thirds of which are currently consumed by Japan) are constantly growing.

The period of falling prices for coking coal had a negative impact on producers, leading to the development of more expensive underground method (for example, the United States - 90% of coking coal is provided by mine production). Companies turned out to be in the best conditions, practicing mainly mining (Australia, 70% of coal is mined by the open method). Therefore, the Australian coal miners strengthened their positions not only in the European market, but also, for example, in Brazil: in 2015, Australia supplied these regions with a monthly increase of 0.6 million tons more compared to the previous period, displacing adequate volumes of more expensive American coals. However, American coking coal has not lost competitiveness due to higher quality and stability of supply. (It is appropriate to mention here that both are the main advantages of underground mining - suffice it to recall the large-scale interruptions in the supply of Australian coal from the 2011 flood).

Under the influence of these factors, a characteristic feature of the current situation with the consumption of coking coal can be considered the work of coke producers with various suppliers of raw materials, and not on a competitive basis, but on a joint basis. A striking example is Ukraine, which imports coking coal from the USA, Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Poland.

As to coal for pulverized coal, the demand for them is also determined by the decline in the steel industry. In general terms, low metal prices and the rise in the cost of coke stimulate lower consumption of the latter in the blast furnace process due to more active use of pulverized coal.

The reports on developments in the field of new technologies and increasing production efficiency of great interest were.

For example, a group of authors from the Instituto Nacional del Carbón INCAR (National Institute of Carbon, Oviedo, Spain), presented the report "Reducing energy consumption in blast furnaces using iron-coke briquettes." The purpose of the research was to study the process of carbonization of agglomerates consisting of coal and iron ore, and to obtain from them iron-coke briquettes for partial replacement of coke in a blast furnace. The developers believe that the use of such briquettes will make it possible to increase the efficiency of the iron reduction reaction in blast furnaces by lowering the temperature of the back-up thermal zone through using of coke with high reactivity.

The initial mixture for the production of iron-coke briquettes includes low-grade iron ores (27.1%), poorly or non-caking coal (58.8%), charcoal (4.5%), a binder (9.6%, including molasses - 2.4%, CaO - 2.4%, water - 4.8%). Briquettes were made on a roller press and subjected to firing. The authors argue that coke "skeletons" formed in the process of making briquettes are more reactive than the products of individual coking of the same coal in the traditional way. In our opinion, this is explained by the difference in the porosity of the final carbon products, i.e. in various surfaces chemical interaction of a solid with gaseous reagent.

Company Baosteel Group (PRC) presented a report entitled “Method for Evaluation and Use of High Reactivity Coke”.

The report attempts to systematize the differences in the conditions of the traditional definition of CRI / CSR indicators from the actual conditions of blast furnace smelting. The results are presented by the authors in the form of the following table.

Factors Defining CRI/CSR Coke in the blast furnace
Temperature, °С 1000 constant 850-1400 increasing
Reaction behaviour area kinetic
  • kinetic: <1100 °C
  • mixed: 1100-1300 °C
  • diffusion:> 1300 °C
Duration 2 hours depends on the speed of the process
Reaction atmosphere CO2 mixture of CO2, CO2, H2, N2
Concentration of CO2 % 100 < 10
The ratio of gaseous carbon dioxide and coke (l / g) 3 (600 l / 200 g) is formed in the process of direct reduction
The effect of coke ash composition (Fe2O3 / CaO /MgO / K2O / Na2O) obvious catalytic effect ore, iron and slag have a more complex ash composition, which can inhibit the catalytic effect of coke ash
Unreacted coal dust not available up to 30% of blown coal dust
Coke weight loss unlimited depends on the degree of direct reduction and amount of unreacted coal dust, <25%

Based on the noted differences, the authors became interested in the influence of the mass loss dynamics of coke samples when tested by the Nippon Steel method on the final result of the determination. Studies have been carried out of the charge with different content of coal Ewigo, coke on the basis of which is characterized by high reactivity. The research was conducted using a 300-pound pilot coke oven. The resulting coke was used in the blast furnace process for heavy-duty furnaces (4000 m³) of Baosteel plant.

Based on the results obtained, the authors of the report proposed to determine the hot strength of highly reactive coke as follows. When heated at a rate of 10 ° C / min, the coke sample begins to lose mass at 950 ° C; at a temperature of 1030 ° C, a certain reaction rate is reached, and the sample is kept under isothermal conditions until the mass loss reaches 25%.

According to the authors, the assessment of post-reaction coke strength with a fixation of mass loss of 25% (CSR 25)is more adequately than the CSR test and assesses the behavior in a blast furnace of coke with high reactivity. This method is implemented at Baosteel plant to create the optimal charge with Ewigo coal.

The company Bellona Europa, represented by its director, J.M. Helseta, presented a report on the prospects for creating a structure for capturing, storing and using CO2 in Europe. In March last year, Bellona developed a basis for such a strategy for Norway, the main ones are the following:creating a CO2 market, capturing carbon dioxide emissions from existing sources, developing a commercially viable infrastructure for transporting and storing CO2, and engaging in the implementation of secondary methods of producing oil from artificial reservoir energy maintenance (Enhanced Oil Recovery, EOR-processes). An important aspect of the problem is the need for its comprehensive, “vertical” solution both at the regional and at the pan-European level. The proposals for the creation of a European policy of investing in the solution of the task in the framework of the European Union until 2020 have been developed.

It all refers to existing sources of carbon dioxide. For the future, the ambitious goal of “ferrous metallurgy without CO2 emissions” is set. As part of its achievement, it is planned to make a transition to direct reduction of iron from ores with hydrogen. Water vapor will be a by-product of such production. Currently, the development of the relevant project has begun in Sweden.

A number of reports were devoted to problems that were to some extent studied and studied in Ukraine. These include involvement in the charge for coking low-caking coals and secondary products of carbon chemical products (including by briquetting them using the resinous part of coal fusions, plastics waste, etc.) as binders coke production, ways to extend the life of the furnace fund, etc.

Here we would like to note that for obtaining the most unambiguous and informative results on the impact on the quality of coke of raw materials, technological methods, etc., box coking is widely used in the world practice, as well as pilot and laboratory models of a coke oven. The latter include, for example, a semi-pilot oven with a capacity of 17 kg with a movable wall (MWO - movable wall oven), mentioned in the report of M.A. Días (INCAR) “Using waste as a raw material in coke production” (link to the article Fuel 114, 216-223 (2013), MADiez, R.Alvarez, JLGCimadevilla, Briquetting of carbon-containing carbon steel for metallurgical coke production). In the State Enterprise “Ukhin”, the mentioned methods for studying the process of coking are traditionally used and developed.

The manuscript submitted to the editorial body on 09/20/2016

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