THE REDUCTIONISTS Stefano Maggiolino, Managing Director of Tenova HYL, speaks to Sustainable Business Magazine about bringing the ancient art of iron smelting into the modern world of environmental sustainability.
Tenova HYL are truly an exceptional company: They are one of only two outfits in the world able to offer direct reduction iron (DRI) to the international iron and steel market. DRI is significant in today’s industry for many reasons including its economic efficiency and metal purity, but it’s low environmental impact that really makes it stand out from other iron processing methods. Tenova HYL, part of the Tenova Company, is based in Mexico but has DRI plants across the world serving local customers. HYL began in 1957 as the R&D division of Hylsa, one of Mexico’s largest steel producers, tasked with finding alternative sources of iron due to a lack of scrap iron following World War 2. HYL’s researchers pioneered the direct reduction technique and built the world’s first DRI plant, a feat recognized with an ASM International plate for being a historical landmark in steel making. In 1998 the company pioneered yet another development by opening up an industrial plant in Monterrey, Mexico, that lacked an external reformer. By 2005 Hylsa was acquired by the Techint Group. Hylsa’s steelmaking facilities merged into Ternium
while as a strategic move, Hylsa’s former R&D division became Tenova HYL. TECHNOLOGY FOR A HEALTHIER WORLD Stefano Maggiolino, Managing Director of Tenova HYL, explains the DRI process and why the lack of external reformer was another leap forward for the industry: “You know by experience iron tends to get oxidized and therefore rusty. You see it on your car, on your tools, etc. By nature all iron in the world is available as iron oxide. For millions of years, all iron ore is in the earth in the form of oxide. That is the natural tendency of iron. Direct reduction is a process that removes oxide from iron oxide in order to get pure iron.” “How do we do that? We need to inject carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) into a reactor at high temperature. CO and H2 strip the oxygen atoms from iron ore so it becomes pure iron. CO then turns into CO2 – carbon dioxide – and H2 becomes water, or H2O. We get the CO and H2 with a reforming process. Reforming is done by combining natural gas (CH4) and H2O and, with this reforming process, we produce CO SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE