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Metso has been awarded a detailed design and engineering contract from Rio Tinto for its continuous pilot plant (CPP) on behalf of the BioIron process.

The BioIron process uses raw biomass instead of metallurgical coal as a reductant and microwave energy to convert Pilbara iron ore to metallic iron in the steelmaking process.

According to Rio Tinto, it has the potential to be carbon neutral and can result in net negative emissions when linked with carbon capture and storage.

The new contract awarded to Metso from Rio Tinto serves as an extension of the work both companies have been doing together on the development of the BioIron process since December 2022.

Rio Tinto proved the effectiveness of the process using ores from its mines in Australia in a small-scale pilot plant in Germany after testing by Rio Tinto, Metso and the University of Nottingham’s Microwave Process Engineering Group was conducted for 18 months.

Through this new contract, Rio Tinto aims to move further towards the full-scale implementation of the BioIron technology through the CPP operation, and Metso will deliver the detailed design of the CPP’s reduction furnace and other equipment for the BioIron process.

Rio Tinto general manager of steel decarbonisation David Leigh said this is an important step in developing the BioIron technology.

“This work is the key next step in the development of the BioIron technology and builds on the success of the research and development team,” Leigh said.

Metso director of ferrous metals Matthias Gabriel echoed similar sentiments.

“We are very excited to continue the close working relationship with Rio Tinto and to provide engineering and design support as we move to the next phase of development of the BioIron technology,” Gabriel said.