Submerged arc furnaces for ferrochrome production

 The purpose of SAF is to produce ferrochrome by reducing chromite ores and concentrates. Whereas iron oxides can be reduced into iron with carbon in for example blast furnaces, the reduction of chromium with carbon requires temperatures too high to be implemented in blast furnace type ovens. SAF, which is the best available technology for high carbon ferrochrome production, uses electric current to increase temperature and to enhance the reduction reactions of the chromite. Concerning the modelling of this process, it is necessary to know what is the influence of the used electric current on the physical and chemical properties of the used materials (i.e. ores, concentrates, coke, silica) as well as on the physical and chemical phenomena taking place in the furnace (i.e. chemical reactions, heat transfer, flow patterns, electric conduction, and so on). With this information, it is possible to estimate, how the amount and quality of the product as well as the energy consumption of the process are influenced if the electric current or the amounts, compositions and/or grain size distributions of the raw materials were being changed. Although the reduction reactions of the chromite have been studied, the influence of the electric current on the reduction reactions is usually omitted as anything else but a heat source. Experiments conducted by Rousu et al. (2010) indicated the enhancing effect of electric current on the reduction reactions thus giving a little information concerning the dependencies between the current and the reactions. On the other hand, based on the analyses of the samples taken from the actual SAF process, Ollila et al. (2010) have concluded that the electrical properties of the materials change drastically as the reduction of the chromite proceeds. The same study also indicated the circulation phenomena of zinc, sulphur and the alkali that need to be considered in the modelling of the SAF process. (Ollila et al., 2010) However, the amount of information at the moment is not sufficient enough for proper modelling of the SAF phenomena and more experimental research is required before comprehensive models concerning the SAF could be presented.
SAF in the production of other ferroalloys
At this point, it is worth mentioning that the SAF process is used in the production of other ferroalloys, too. For example, ferrosilicon and ferromanganese are being produced with SAF type processes. Concerning the modelling of these processes, it is necessary - as it is in the production of ferrochrome - to know the influence of the electric current on the physical and chemical properties and phenomena within the furnace. In the thermodynamic modelling of the ferroalloys production systems, the most important phases to be modelled are the liquid slag and the metal alloy itself. Despite the existing similarities, production of each ferroalloy has also its own characteristic features that need to be taken into account in the modelling of these processes. The production of ferrosilicon consists of quartzite reduction using charcoal, pitch coke, petroleum coke, coke breeze or anthracite as reducing agents. The iron is provided to the system with the addition of steel chips, iron ores or mill scales. The obvious difference to the ferrochrome production is the higher stability of SiO2 in comparison to Cr2O3 or FeCr2O4. This means that more energy is required for the reduction of SiO2. In addition to this, one has to consider the possible formations of SiC and gaseous SiO. Thermodynamic calculations concerning the reduction of quartzite with carbon indicate that the formation of SiC may become a problem when the silicon content of the metal exceeds 22 w-%. On the other hand, the formation of SiO-gas my decrease the silicon yield in higher temperatures. In the modelling of the ferromanganese production, one also has to consider the influences of potassium and zinc compounds that are always present in the raw materials. The concentrations of these elements may increase in the furnace due to circulation phenomenon and hence lead to problems such as coke particle disintegration, the formation of hard bank materials and irregular flows in the furnace. Source: Eetu-Pekka Heikkinen and Timo Fabritius: Modelling of the Refining Processes in the Production of Ferrochrome and Stainless Steel, University of Oulu, Finland

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