Vallourec celebrates environmental advances with new technologies

05/06/2020 - Brazil / Environment

Vallourec celebrates environmental advances with the development of technology to produce sustainable charcoal and reduce CO2 emissions
Vallourec has two good reasons to celebrate World Environment Day: the development of an innovative technology for producing charcoal in a clean and sustainable way, with high productivity and low risks, and the 50% reduction of CO2 emissions in the Jeceaba/MG Pelletizing plant.

Both achievements were only possible through unprecedented actions by the Company. The reuse and injection of charcoal powder to replace natural gas as an energy source is a pioneering project in the world. 
“The iron ore pellet production process has high energy consumption, both in terms of thermal energy and electrical energy. Finding more competitive fuels, as well as renewable energy sources, is a constant at Vallourec, as they significantly benefit the environment, in addition to increasing the competitiveness of our products”, says Hildeu Dellaretti Junior, Institutional, Environment & Communication General Manager. .  

In this sense, in January 2017, the Company started in its Pelletizing plant the reuse of charcoal powder, which was sold as a co-product of the Blast Furnaces, replacing natural gas. For the implementation of this initiative, investments were made in specific equipment, which is already in operation.  

With this project it was possible to achieve the maximum replacement of natural gas that the process allows. This means a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions. 

“Vallourec reinforces its commitment to the environment in the continuous search for alternatives for replacing fossil fuels with renewable ones throughout its production chain,” says Dellaretti. 

Continuous and efficient carbonization

Designed by Vallourec, continuous carbonization - Carboval - is a vertical reactor that converts wood into charcoal in just 16 hours, without releasing methane or carbon monoxide, and using up to 95% of the available raw material energy. 

The pilot plant was developed over eight years (2008 to 2015) and produced 32 kt of charcoal tested in Vallourec's Blast Furnaces and third-party mini-blast furnaces. After the testing period, Carboval proved to be viable and currently produces an excellent quality charcoal. The patents of the Carboval process are already registered in Brazil, Chile, United States, Argentina and Canada. 
“Masonry carbonization kilns have reached the technological and sustainability limit. Carboval allows an increase in productivity and quality control of the charcoal, being a technology totally friendly to the environment, and according to current and near future laws.”, evaluates the manager of continuous carbonization at the Florestal unit, Fernando Latorre. 

A conventional masonry carbonization kiln has a 16-day cycle between loading and unloading, to produce an average of 50 tons per cycle, with a maximum utilization of 55% of the energy available in wood. The Carboval continuous reactor has a 16-hour cycle, with a daily production of 22 tons of charcoal. The technology of the Carboval continuous reactor is mainly responsible for its high productivity and quality of charcoal. In addition, it allows the use of all by-products of pyrolysis, either in the form of gases to produce thermal or electrical energy, or as vegetable tar and pyroligneous extract for the chemical industry or cogeneration of electrical energy.
Another advantage is that the process is automated and simple to operate, requiring less labor, reducing operating costs and accident risks. “The high level of automation also makes possible to produce a customized charcoal, which is chemically suited to the specifications of the customer.,” adds Latorre.

If coupled to a thermoelectric plant, ten Carboval reactors can generate electricity capable of supplying around two thousand homes, in addition to producing charcoal with the ideal technical specifications for the steel industry. "This technology can revolutionize the energy and primary iron production sector, generating employment and strengthening the sustainable production of the steel and alloy industry in Brazil, contributing to the planet", he concludes.