“We Are The Only Company Commercializing A Technology Meeting The Criteria Of Ideal Steel Decarbonization,” Adam Rauwerdink, SVP Of Business Development Boston Metal

"We Are The Only Company In The World Commercializing A Technology Meeting The Criteria Of Ideal Steel Decarbonization," Adam Rauwerdink, SVP Of Business Development Boston Metal - Carbon Herald
Credit: Boston Metal

New technologies in hard-to-abate industries are critical to be scaled in the next few decades in order to deliver low-carbon products. Boston Metal is a global metals technology solutions company that is poised to help meet 100% of the global steel production demand with truly emissions-free iron.

The company is commercializing Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE) – a tonnage metals technology platform, that is decarbonizing steelmaking by replacing coal with electricity in the metals production process. We interviewed Adam Rauwerdink, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Boston Metal who explained how the MOE technology works, what encompasses ideal steel decarbonization, and how the company plans to scale its truly emissions-free approach.

How is Boston Metal decarbonizing the steel industry?

Iron production is the basis for all steelmaking and the most carbon-intensive step in the process. In traditional steelmaking, the energy that powers this stage comes from coal. Boston Metal is commercializing a Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE) technology platform that uses renewable electricity instead of coal to convert iron ore directly into high-purity liquid metal. When compared with traditional primary steelmaking, using MOE is more efficient and emits no carbon dioxide, offering a simple, scalable and truly decarbonized solution.

What is Molten Oxide Electrolysis? Could you please explain in detail how the technology works in producing low-emissions steel?

Boston Metal’s scalable MOE platform uses renewable electricity to convert all iron ore grades to high-quality liquid metal, an advantage that protects against the scarcity and price volatility of premium ores. This direct approach eliminates many steps in the steel production process and does not require coke production, iron ore sintering and pelletizing, blast furnace reduction or basic oxygen furnace refinement.

In the MOE cell, an inert anode is immersed in an electrolyte containing iron ore, and then it’s electrified. When the cell heats to 1600°C, the electrons split the bonds in the iron oxide in the ore, producing pure liquid metal. No carbon dioxide or other harmful byproducts are generated in this process, just oxygen.

Credit: Boston Metal

Furthermore, MOE does not require process water, hazardous chemicals or precious-metal catalysts. Boston Metal’s modular MOE cell can scale to meet production capacity targets from thousands to millions of tons of output for a customized steel manufacturing solution.

What are the advantages compared to the transitional steel-making process? What percentage of the emissions in the value chain for steel are saved using this method compared to traditional ones?

Other approaches to reduce carbon emissions in steel production include recycling scrap; carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS); green hydrogen-based direct reduced iron (DRI); using other fuels like biomass and syngas to power blast furnaces; and direct electrification. Of these options, only green hydrogen and electrification have the potential to remove carbon emissions from the steel production process entirely.

Relevant: Boston Metal Raises $120M To Scale Green Steel Technology

The ideal steel decarbonization technology is one that is truly free of CO2 emissions, able to use 100% of globally available iron ore feedstock, cost-competitive without long-term subsidies or regulatory pressure, and is capable of global deployment through a modular, incrementally scalable pathway.

Boston Metal is the only company in the world that is commercializing a green steel technology that meets this criteria. MOE provides a scalable and cost-competitive solution for eliminating Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions from steelmaking, which today are responsible for approximately 10% of global CO2 emissions.

Could this technology be used in the production of other types of metal?

Yes. For our high-value metals business, we’re commercializing MOE to be used to selectively extract valuable metals from complex, low-concentration materials that are currently considered mining waste. Through leveraging a natural byproduct of metal production, mining companies can create new revenue streams while reducing the financial liabilities of slag (i.e. waste). With Boston Metal, the metals industry has a scalable, cost-competitive and sustainable solution to produce a variety of metals and alloys from a wide range of feedstocks.

How do you plan to scale it?

At full production scale, MOE has the potential to be cost-competitive with today’s coal-based steel. Like aluminum smelting, MOE runs in modular reactors and can be economically scaled in steps of less than 100,000 tons/year of production capacity with the potential for millions of tons of output as seen in current integrated steel mills. This reduces the financial barrier to adopting MOE and provides maximum deployment flexibility that caters to all-sized organizations as an additional revenue stream to mini-mills using Electric Arc Furnaces (EAF) through large steel producers.

In terms of how we’re scaling MOE to bring it to the steel market by 2026, we’re currently focused on industrial-scale development of our inert anode technology – the key enabling property of the MOE platform for steelmaking. This is challenging because inert anodes operate at high temperatures in corrosive environments. And since the technology is new, we’re building the knowledge base and pioneering manufacturing processes in real-time.

Credit: ant-rozetsky | Unsplash

To drive this effort, we created a specialized team of engineers and materials scientists dedicated to the industrial validation of inert anodes, as well as to their production. We are in the process of building a state-of-the-art facility for developing and manufacturing refractory and reactive metals – from raw materials to finished products. The manufacturing plant will be the first of its kind and will produce the supply of inert anodes required for our green steel technology.

What is the progress with the construction of your new commercial plant in Brazil?

The facility in Minas Gerais, Brazil will support Boston Metal’s high-value metals business. Also, to be clear, Boston Metal won’t produce steel. Rather, we will license our MOE platform technology to steelmakers.

Construction on the high-value metals facility is nearly complete, and we expect to announce the plant’s opening in late 2023 and realize the first revenues in early 2024.

What is your business model?

Image: Dmytro Mikriukov/Shutterstock

We will license our MOE platform technology to steelmakers and also manufacture and market our metallic inert anodes, which are a critical component of MOE for green steel production. For our high-value metals business, Boston Metal do Brasil will use the MOE technology to recover high-value metals from mining waste at our facility in Brazil, creating a new revenue stream for the company.

You recently raised $262 million in Series C financing, how are you planning to leverage it?

This funding will advance the company on its path to commercializing MOE for green steel production by 2026. More specifically, we will further the work being done at our pilot plant outside of Boston, which is focused on the industrial-scale development of our inert anode technology – the key enabling property of the MOE platform for steelmaking.

Relevant: Boston Metal Closes $262M Series C Funding Round For Its Low Carbon Steelmaking Tech

We also plan to expand our team with new hires, particularly in Brazil. The new funding will also support the expansion of Boston Metal do Brasil and our high-value metals business, which is nearing commercialization. We’re on track to realize first revenues from our high-value metals business in 2024.

How easy was it for the company to grow its team more than twice in the last two years?

While challenging, the growth of our team has been made possible by the $350+ million in funding we have received to date, and also the endorsement of our world-class investor syndicate which includes steel producers, mining companies, and end-users.

Prospective talent is impressed by this indication of our bright future and the rapid progress we’ve made as a company. While we conduct a rigorous and thorough search for top talent, we’re finding there are more and more qualified people who are passionate about working on solutions to the world’s biggest challenges at a rapidly growing start-up.  

Any future milestones we should be on the lookout for?

Our Series C fundraise provides multiple years of runway for our current business objectives, and it will see us through important milestones for our green steel program and realizing revenue for high-value metals production.

Our priority for the next year is consolidating our Brazilian operations for the high-value metals business and running the first multi-anode semi-industrial cell for green steel at our Woburn, MA pilot facility.

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