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Use Case: Fuel Rate Minimization

By: Fero Labs Logo light
• February 2024
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Use Case Description


Blast furnace steelmaking involves heating iron ore, fuel (typically coke), and limestone in a blast furnace to produce molten iron. The molten iron is then combined with oxygen (and optionally scrap steel) in a basic oxygen furnace to oxidize impurities and produce steel. This is currently the dominant process for primary steel production worldwide.


Minimizing the fuel rate in blast furnace steelmaking can maximize the blast furnace's energy efficiency and minimize emissions. By decreasing the amount of fuel used per ton of hot metal produced, the blast furnace's overall energy efficiency is increased.

This helps lower the operating costs. It also lowers the carbon dioxide and other emissions generated from the combustion of the fossil fuel.

Controlling fuel rate is challenging because blast furnace process chemistry and transport phenomena are too complex to analyze with simple physics-based models.

Direct measurements of hearth temperatures are not possible and casting time for typical blast furnaces is measured in hours, adding operational challenges to controlling such furnaces.

Process engineers study Silicon content in hot metal as a proxy to blast furnace temperatures. Higher temperature generally produce hot metal with lower Silicon levels. Increased Silicon levels can indicate unexpected cooling and can be addressed by increasing fuel rates.

Minimize fuel rate by predicting Silicon content in hot metal, with respect to all other operating conditions of a blast furnace. Take proactive action rather than reacting to out of specification Silicon measurements.

The current solution is to react to Silicon measurements, which reflect blast furnace conditions from up to 10 hours ago. This leads to reactive course correction, which results in:

  • financial loss due to unnecessary usage of fuel, combined with blast furnace cooldown risk, and
  • environmental cost of incurring Scope 1 emissions due to unnecessary combustion of fuel.

Fero Labs Solution

Blast furnace operators can deploy the Fero Labs software to forecast Silicon content of hot metal, filling in the “gaps” between the 8–10 hours at which they sample the hot metal and analyze it.

This real-time forecasting provides visibility into blast furnace hearth temperatures and guides operators to reduce fuel rates in a safe and predictable manner.

A Live Fero Analysis for this use case presents one easy-to use screen:

  • For process engineers to monitor production and operators to take action at any moment.



Process & Business Outcomes

Tightened blast furnace temperature control and stability

With the Fero Labs platform providing forecasts for hot metal Silicon content, variability in fuel-stock, input ore, and operational parameters no longer translate to hot metal temperature variation.

Since process engineers and operators gain access to predictions as early as 8 hours ahead of time, they can proactively adapt rather than react to hot metal temperature fluctuations.

With a full adoption of Fero Labs on the production line, blast furnace operators can achieve up to 20% reduction in hot metal Silicon variability.

Fuel rate minimization across fuel types

Blast furnace operators seek to reduce fuel rates while incorporating increased amounts of pulverized coal. Overly aggressive reduction campaigns increase the risk of overcooling. In turn, high Silicon levels for some speciality steel can cause downstream obstacles.

With Fero Labs providing high-accuracy forecasts of Silicon content, blast furnace operators can see a 5% decrease in coke consumption across multiple product grades.

Measurable cost savings from fuel rate reduction

Reacting to hot metal Silicon content and temperatures leads to a consistent overuse of fuel to maintain hearth temperatures at sub-optimally high levels. With Fero Labs providing visibility into this part of the furnace, operators can proactively drive the furnace.

With a full adoption of Fero on the blast furnace, an average sized furnace operator can expect up to 3% in fuel cost savings.

Commensurate Scope 1 carbon and ammonia minimization

Reducing fuel consumption directly reduces the Scope 1 carbon footprint of steelmaking. Since Scope 1 accounts for the majority (75+%) of direct steelmaking, reducing fuel rates leads to a commensurate 3.5–4% reduction in Scope 1 and ammonia emissions. Fero Labs can provide reporting capabilities that directly track and account for this reduction.


Fero Labs Adoption Timeline

Blast furnaces with specialized teams can collaborate to set up and deploy Fero. Below is a timeline highlighting typical steps. With Fero’s easy-to-use, no-code interface, this can be achieved in a matter of weeks, not months or years.

Data Requirements

Learn what data is required for this use case, and in which format it can be provided. From your laboratory to blast furnace, download the Playbook to access a detailed information on ideal data sources, formats, and time periods.


Activating This Use Case

Consider our Industrial Use Case Playbooks as inspiration and tactical ideas for your team to align on to maximize the efficiencies of your plant.

Each Playbook has a matching Use Case Blueprint which provides more detailed steps to activate each use case within the Fero Labs platform.

If you’re curious to see these in action please book a free feasibility study with our team!

Together, let us continue to push the boundaries of what's possible, driving towards a future where industrial manufacturing is not just efficient and sustainable but truly transformative in its impact on society and the world at large.

Thank you for joining us on this journey, and we look forward to continuing to partner with you in your pursuit of excellence.

Download the entire Fuel Rate Minimization Use Case Playbook to access additional tables and details about this industrial use case.