Why is PCI coal important to the steel industry?


Pulverized Coal Injection (PCI) is recognised as an increasingly valuable step in the process of turning iron ore into steel, and the metallurgical coal used for this process is produced right here at Bluff.

The world demand for steel is increasing – our populations are increasing, we are more mobile, buildings are higher, bridges are longer and we rely on steel to support our lifestyles.

Source World Steel

The Bowen Basin – best metallurgical coal in the world

The Bowen Basin is the largest exporting source of metallurgical coal on the planet and is widely accepted as the world standard in quality. Demand for the Australian product is high because the highest grades of steel can be produced using our coal.

In 2017, Australia’s exports of HCC and PCI represented 85% of total metallurgical coal exports. (MCA Metallurgical Coal Demand Study 121018)

Today, more than 70% of total global steel production is dependent on coal. Metallurgical coal will be needed more and more as steel producers turn to the PCI method to reduce the cost of producing steel, and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from steel production. In fact, Commodity Insights forecast that demand for metallurgical coal will increase steadily through 2030.

The Metallurgical coal difference

Metallurgical coals have high carbon levels, low moisture and a lower level of impurities, for example, ash, sulphur and phosphorus which also makes for a lower level of volatility. There are three main types:

  • Semi-soft coking coal – also sold as thermal coal, can be used in the coking coal blend but results in a lower grade of coke.
  • Hard coking coal (HCC)- vital to the production of good quality coke. As the first step in the iron-making process, the coal is heated without oxygen, melts, swells and as it cools, solidifies into coke.
  • Pulverized Coal Injection coal (PCI)- does not need a preparatory step but is injected directly into the blast furnace as extra fuel, significantly reducing the amount of coke needed to raise the iron ore to the correct temperature to produce iron and slag. Lower production costs and lower emissions are further benefits of using the PCI process.

Source World Steel

Over the next decade, the Bluff PCI Project, sitting on the southern end of the Bowen Basin, is set to produce about 12 million tonnes of high grade bituminous metallurgical coal for export to the steel manufacturing industry.

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