Iron Ore Pelletizing Essential in Meeting Future Steel Needs

This article was co-authored by:

Chris Kozicki
Agglomeration Expert

Carrie Carlson
Technical Writer

As the world leader in tumble growth agglomeration, FEECO provides a variety of services and equipment for iron ore pelletizer plants.

As the needs of the steel industry change, one production component looks to be increasingly important in meeting the needs of the modern steel industry: iron ore pelletizing.

Iron ore pelletizing, or balling, is the process of transforming fines into spherical granules anywhere from 8 – 16mm in size via tumble-growth (agitation) agglomeration using either a disc pelletizer (pan granulator) or rotary drum.

Why Demand for Iron Ore Pelletizing is Going Up

A number of factors have had an influence on the market as of late, causing the practice of iron ore pelletizing to become more favorable:

Growing Use of Iron Ore Concentrates

Diminishing high-grade iron ore sources have left behind lower grade ores that necessitate concentration to be economically recovered. Through crushing, grinding, and various other techniques, low-grade iron ore is frequently upgraded to a concentrate product in the form of a powder.

If processed directly, this powder would reduce the efficiency of the overall steel making process, including blast furnace performance; therefore, pelletizing of the fines is essential to process efficiency.

Shifting Buyer Preferences

The shifting structure of China’s steel industry (the world’s largest consumer of iron ore) has pushed demand for higher grade iron ore products, of which pellets are considered a premium.

Efforts behind the changes aim to minimize emissions while boosting productivity, according to Reuters. Pellets reduce the requirement of coking coal in the process, ultimately making it more environmentally friendly. According to Reuters, CRU consultants expect pellet imports to China to increase by 70 million tonnes over the next decade.

Increasing Focus on Sustainability

As with many industries, an increasing focus on sustainability has prompted producers to look at every available resource as a potential raw material. When it comes to iron ore, the pelletizing of fines produced at mine sites (previously considered a waste), as well as flue dust from blast furnaces, allows these fines to be integrated into the steel production process, so material does not go to waste.

This is especially true in India, where fines at mine sites are especially an issue – the region’s softer iron ore sources are much more prone to breakdown and the production of fines.

Similarly, pelletizing contributes to the reuse of Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) dust. Electric arc furnaces produce steel from scrap metal. The dust produced in these furnaces is a considerable by-product and is often pelletized for reintegration into the process.

Benefits of Pelletized Iron Ore

In addition to the factors listed above, iron ore pellets also offer a number of benefits to steel producers, some of which include:

  • Improved productivity per cubic meter of blast furnace1
  • Lower emissions and dust compared to sinter1 
  • Reduced requirement of coking coal
  • Improved handling and transportation
  • Reduced loss of product
  • Mitigation of particle crushing and subsequent blocking of the furnace (when pellets are properly produced)
  • Better in-furnace performance (pellets transfer heat better than powder)


Various factors, combined with the many benefits that pelletized iron ore can offer to the steel-making process, have given pellets an increasingly strong hold in the steel market, with the iron ore pelletizing technique looking to be an especially important factor in meeting future steel needs as producers look to maximize efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.

As the industry’s authority on tumble-growth agglomeration, or balling as it is often called in iron ore production, FEECO has been serving the iron ore industry since 1951. We offer feasibility testing, process and product development services, custom balling discs and drums, and parts and service support for pelletizer plants. For more information on our iron ore capabilities, contact us today!


About the Authors . . .

Chris Kozicki is a Process Sales Engineer and agglomeration expert.

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Carrie Carlson is a technical writer and visual designer.

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