Challenges, opportunities for greener manganese alloy production: IFA 2023

The complete eradication of carbon emissions from manganese alloy production is likely to be “impossible” because the smelting process relies on carbon-heavy reductants such as coal or coke, panelists said at Fastmarkets’ 39th International Ferroalloys Conference in Prague on Monday November 20

Despite this, in their discussion on manganese ore and manganese alloys, experts including Asia Minerals Limited (AML) director Gautam Kumar, Project Blue founder Jack Beddar and WoodMac research director Kevin Fowkes weighed in on the various methods for reducing carbon emissions and the challenges they pose for ferro-alloys producers.

“The problem is the most hazardous carbon emitting [part of manganese alloy production] is the use of coal or coke [reductants],” Kumar said.

But there are several things that can be done to make production greener, he added, with AML planning to secure land in Malaysia to grow new forests to create biocarbon reductants in the form of charcoal and wood chips.

Kumar added that producer AML plans to source 40% of its carbon reductant needs from those new forests for its Pertama ferro-alloys plant in Sarawak, Malaysia to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

Fowkes pointed out that many of the green measures producers can take up have trade-offs, with biocarbon reductants said to be less efficient and therefore more expensive. As well as there being issues with supply.

“There would be no tree left in the world if everyone is using charcoal,” Fowkes said.

Access to green energy was also a large factor in reducing emissions, with producers operating in countries such as Malaysia, Norway, Iceland and Brazil having the advantage of access to hydroelectric power.

Project Blue founder Beddar said “a lot can be done to improve emissions as a whole” but described complete eradication as “impossible”. Project Blue provides consultancy on critical materials for energy transition.

Other methods discussed to achieve greener production included switching diesel-run equipment to electric-operated machinery, waste heat recovery processes and carbon capture.

However, panelists stressed the need for government subsidies to support greener production across the manganese chain.

Emerging EV end market

The experts also discussed expected demand and supply for manganese sulfate for use in electric vehicle (EV) batteries. While manganese sulfate supply is expected to grow significantly in the next two decades, the manganese industry will still be heavily dominated by alloy production for use in steelmaking, Fastmarkets heard.

Panelists also considered the role of India in the supply chain, with all in agreement that India’s steel market will grow and thus demand for manganese alloys and ore, “but not to extent China has grown”.

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