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:: Project KA3/KK4, the Largest Investment in LKAB´s History
On Tuesday 17 June, H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria inaugurated LKAB's newest and largest iron-ore pelletizing plant, KK4, and adjacent KA3 concentrating plant. KK4 is a pelletizing plant that is in many respects unique in terms of capacity, environmental technology and investment. We have put a lot of work and more than seven billion kronor into this mega-investment package for Kiruna, says Lars-Eric Aaro, Vice President Technology & Business Development. This is the single largest investment in LKAB's 118-year history. It includes the KK4 pelletizing plant, concentrating plant KA3 and pellet transport facilities leading to the new loading station at the Kiruna rail terminal. In addition, the investment includes measures to increase production in the mine, for example, a new skip for hoisting crude ore. Complementary investments have also been made in existing processing plants and infrastructure.
The project management and everyone who has been involved in the project have done a fantastic job, continues Lars-Eric. Two and a half years after the decision was taken, the plants now stand ready and are in production. The first pellets rolled out of KK4 at 4 p.m. on 4 May, according to schedule. We have the world's largest sintering machine of the grate-kiln-cooler type, says Åsa Sundqvist, who has been the project manager throughout the entire project period (pre-study, planning, design and construction). On the 70 meter long grate, the green balls are dried and pre-heated in several zones, and then sintered in the 40-meter long rotary kiln at 1250 degrees Celsius, after which they are cooled to 120 degrees in the rotary cooler, which has a diameter of 28 meters. We have also invested a lot in environmental technology, adds Åsa. KK4 is the world's only pelletizing plant that is equipped for nitrogen oxide reduction. The flue gas treatment plant for KK4 consists also of electrostatic precipitators that remove particulates, and a sulphur dioxide reduction system. For sulfur reduction to function properly, the flue gases from the sintering machine must first be cooled. Heat from gas cooling is recovered via a flue gas boiler. In this way, we are able to recover heat for LKAB's own processes and premises, and we can also sell the surplus to the local district heating utility. About 50 years after the commissioning of LKAB's first pelletizing plant in Malmberget, in 1955, the Board of LKAB decided in December 2005 to build a new pellet plant in Kiruna. KK4, the largest plant of its kind in the world, is a so-called grate-kiln plant.
The project began as soon as the decision was taken. Planning, construction and preparations for commissioning proceeded virtually in parallel. At most, nearly 1400 people worked on-location in Kiruna. Hundreds of experts from Sweden as well as from other European countries and North America have contributed their knowledge in the development of KA3/KK4. More than 250 separate procurements of equipment and contracting as well as numerous consultancy services have been made. Guided by directives based on experience from existing plants, suppliers and consultants, LKAB has led the process design of the new plants. In its first year of production, KK4 is expected to produce more than 2 Mt pellets; in the second year 4 Mt, and eventually 5 Mt per year. The plants can be completed for a subsequent increase to 6 Mt, after 2013 at the earliest, at which time the crude ore supply will increase when the Kiruna mine's next main level comes on line. Around 100 people have been hired for the new plants.
The production increase will mainly cover the rising demand for blast furnace pellets on the Nordic and Northern European market and for DR pellets in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. "We have created plants and processes for manufacturing products that meet both current and future quality requirements on the world market," explains project manager Åsa Sundqvist. The result is even, controllable processes in the entire production flow from sorting plant to pelletizing plant. KK4 produces both blast furnace pellets and direct reduction pellets. As a result of the KK4 investment, LKAB's production of finished iron ore products will increase from just over 24 to about 28 Mt per year. During 2008, deliveries of fines from Kiruna (KBF) will be discontinued and replaced by pellets, making Kiruna a supplier of 100 percent pellets to the steel industry. This will simplify production flows at the Kiruna mine, where only a single crude ore line will be operated as opposed to three previously. The effect will be a capacity increase of about 1.5 Mt crude ore per year. With KK4, LKAB hopes to realize the vision of producing 30 million tonnes of iron ore pellets per year.
LKAB's business is based on the treasure of the Lapland iron ore mines - high-grade magnetite - and the pellets made from it. LKAB's pellets also contain considerable know-how based on more than 50 years of pelletizing, and the journey continues towards the perfection of product characteristics and the added value baked the pellet products - value that accrues both to customers and to the environment. The iron and steel business is global and its environmental impact must therefore be seen in a global perspective. LKAB's magnetite-based pellets are called "Green Pellets", since they contribute to a reduction in global emissions of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide, compared to competetive products. During pellet manufacture, magnetite oxidizes to hematite. This generates large amounts of heat, which means that our input of fossil fuels such as coal and oil is considerably less than that of competitors whose products are based on hematite ore. Oxidation also generates surplus heat that can be used to heat facilities at our industrial sites, and even sell to local district-heating utilities. With LKAB's iron ore pellets as the burden material in blast furnaces, carbon dioxide emissions from mine to crude steel are reduced, since alternative process routes, for example producing sinter of fines at the steelmills, generates seven times as much carbon dioxide.
LKAB's first pelletizing plant, a so-called shaft-furnace plant, began operating in Malmberget in 1955. Kiruna's first pelletizing plant (KK1), a straight-grate plant, started up 10 years later, in 1965. Both plants have since been demolished. The steel-belt plant in Malmberget was closed when the new MK3 pelletizing plant came on line in 2006. In 2008, KK4 will become LKAB's sixth pelletizing plant in operation.
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