Sponge iron is the product created when iron ore is reduced to metallic iron, usually with some kind of carbon(charcoal, etc), at temperatures below the melting point of iron. This results in a spongy mass, sometimes calleda bloom, consisting of a mix of incandescent wrought iron and slag. Sponge Iron is a recognized alternative tosteel scrap as a raw material for the manufacture of various steel products. The twin issues of rapid depletion of Coking Coal reserves and the scarcity of indigenous scrap, made the Government of India support production of sponge iron in the country.“Sponge iron is a metallic product produced through direct reduction of iron and iron ore pellets in the solidstate. It is a substitute for scrap and is mainly used in making steel through the secondary route. The processof sponge iron making aims to remove oxygen from iron ore. When that occurs, the departing oxygen causesmicro pores in the ore body making it porous. The final product, when observed under a microscope,resembles a honeycomb structure looking spongy in texture, hence the name sponge iron. “
Sponge iron is not useful in itself, but must be processed to create wrought iron. The sponge is removed fromthe furnace, called a bloomery, and repeatedly beaten with heavy hammers and folded over to remove the slag,oxidise any carbon or carbide and weld the iron together. This treatment usually creates wrought iron with aboutthree percent slag and a fraction of a percent of other impurities. Further treatment may add controlled amountsof carbon, allowing various kinds of heat treatment (e.g. "steeling").Today, sponge iron is created by reducing iron ore without melting it. This makes for an energy-efficientfeedstock for specialty steel manufacturers which used to rely upon scrap metal.
The total global production of sponge iron was estimated to be about 49.45 million tons in the year 2004
India, Venezuela, Iran and Mexico are the four largest producers of sponge iron with about 16%, 14%,11% and 11% share of world's total production.
Sponge iron is increasing being used in steel making because of lower availability of scrap in theinternational market and increased use of Electric Arc Furnace in steel making.
With the domestic steel industry picking up during the past year and prices moving up in leaps andbounds, India has emerged as the world's largest producer of sponge iron (or direct reduced iron),accounting for around 16 per cent of the global output. T
he domestic average growth rate clocking 21 percent as against the average global growth rate of 10 per cent
India is the global leader with a production of 8.07 million tons (Year 2004), followed by Venezuelawith 6.9 million tons.
Sponge iron is used to make steel by all Indian steel producers and is a substitute for steel melting scrap.
Healthy demand growth in steel sector is also pushing sponge iron demand. Apart from decliningavailability of steel melting scrap, sponge iron demand has also gone up considerably and is likely tocontinue.
About 45% of the domestic output is through EAF (Electronic Arc Furnace) route. However, goingforward this is slated to increase. With steel production is likely to grow at 6%-7%, the demand for