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ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor cutting iron costs

A steelworker throws insulation on top of molten iron and slag as it flows from a blast furnace at ArcelorMittal's Burns Harbor facility in 2013. The steel mill is now recycling iron from its byproducts, cutting production costs by $50 a ton.

ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor has a new way to extract more iron from the mill's byproducts, cutting the cost of an essential steelmaking input by $50 a ton.

ArcelorMittal Global Research and Development and service providers developed the new method of recycling steel mill byproducts by separating high-value iron material that can be smelted in the blast furnaces in lieu of iron ore pellets, which could end up saving the steelmaker a lot of money. The new recycled product — called metalized material — is more than 70 percent iron, as compared to 65 percent iron from the iron ore pellets that are mined in Minnesota and boated across the Great Lakes.

"The product we are putting into the blast furnace is less than half the price of a pellet, so every ton of this material we use saves about $50," stated lead engineer Doug White in a news release. "Another cost benefit is that this high iron material has a relatively low slag volume in the blast furnace. This saves coke rate in the furnace and produces more iron in the blast furnace than what could be produced with just pellets alone."

Officials with the Luxembourg-based steelmaker, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, said the project is still in the early stages.

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ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, the former Bethlehem steel mill in Porter County, is now producing about 6,000 tons a month of the recycled iron, and ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago is now using the separation process as well.

“This creates a win-win situation, as we get a very inexpensive iron source for the blast furnace that’s actually less than half the cost of what the iron cost of a pellet is, and we are able to minimize our environmental footprint at the same time,” White said. "There are also long-term sustainability benefits as these materials are returned directly to the process. So while the program is still in the infancy stage, we’re seeing many possibilities and benefits from reusing this recycled material."

Blast furnaces melt the metalized material, which requires less energy to be processed into pig iron than the traditional iron oxide pellets that come via lake freighters.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.