Simulating extreme environments for industrial decarbonisation

Mike Dowd introduces SINTEC a unique capability of the Steel and Metals Institute and explains how his knowledge and expertise in industrial decarbonisation are tackling carbon emissions in steelmaking.


Industrial process simulation for net zero

SINTEC is a globally unique facility that stands for “simulation and integrity testing in extreme conditions”.

SINTEC enables process simulation and asset integrity testing of materials at very high temperatures in reactive gas environments such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.

By simulating industry processes such as steelmaking on the lab scale, we can research breakthrough technologies to address industrial decarbonisation and net zero manufacturing and materials.


Experience in industrial decarbonisation

I began my career as an aerospace engineer. During my PhD I worked with Rolls-Royce plc. I was assessing the ability of materials to withstand the harsh operating conditions of civil engines in flight. I was simulating jet engine service environments on the lab scale.

At that time the aviation industry was already facing significant pressure to reduce carbon emissions.

There’s an economical as well as an environmental challenge for the aviation industry. Fuel cost to airlines is huge. I remember waiting to board a plane travelling from Phu Quoc airport Vietnam to London Heathrow, a 13-hour flight. I overheard a conversation between the pilot and some passengers. The pilot said he had received the fuel bill for the upcoming flight of 90 thousand dollars.


SINTEC for industrial decarbonisation

When I joined SaMI I turned my knowledge and experience in aviation to the decarbonisation of steel and metals. These industries face similar challenges. Like aviation steelmaking is carbon and capital intensive. Energy consumption makes up most of the operating costs in steelmaking.

The steelmaking industry produces around 8% of the global carbon dioxide emissions. Manufacturing via the integrated blast furnace contributes to a large proportion of these emissions.

If we want to achieve a net zero Wales, reducing the carbon emissions of the steelmaking industry is essential.

By conducting experiments that simulate steelmaking processes in the lab we can assess alternative technologies and look at reducing carbon emissions.


Simulating extreme environments in steelmaking

One of the things we are doing in SINTEC is looking at improving blast furnace performance using our reducibility test rig. SINTEC’s reducibility rig gives us an exclusive opportunity to take a virtual look inside the belly of a live blast furnace, simulating the ironmaking part of the steelmaking process.

This research has shown we can cut reaction times for the raw materials that feed the blast furnace which leads to less carbon emissions.

We are also using SINTEC to look at fuel switching opportunities, using less carbon heavy or carbon free fuel sources in steelmaking to reduce carbon emissions. For example, using SINTEC’s industrial process simulation equipment we are looking at introducing hydrogen or biomass into the steelmaking process.


SINTEC facility and net zero Wales

The SINTEC facility at SaMI has enormous potential to help industry address the challenge of industrial decarbonisation.

We are working closely with the steel industry as well as supply chain companies. We are working together closely to find practical solutions to the biggest challenges the industry faces.

The capabilities we have at SaMI with our SINTEC facility enables us to focus on helping the steel industry transition as we work towards doing what we can in reaching a net zero Wales.

Please contact us for more information about the SINTEC facility at SaMI.


Published February 2022.

Mike Dowd is SINTEC Facilities Manager for the Steel and Metals Institute based at Swansea University.

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