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Understanding the Impact of Iron Ore Particle Size and Shape on Green Pellet Quality

Release on February 05, 2020



Iron ore processing has shifted towards lower grade sources due to the depletion of high-grade deposits. This shift necessitates enhancements in ore processing techniques, particularly in pelletizing, a method that converts fine iron ore particles into spherical pellets. The properties of these pellets, critical for efficient smelting, are significantly influenced by the particle size and shape of the iron ore used.

The Importance of Iron Ore Pellet Quality

In the steel manufacturing industry, the quality of iron ore pellets plays an indispensable role in the efficiency and output of smelting processes. These pellets, formed from iron ore powder, are the primary material in the blast furnace smelting but require careful handling to prevent damage before they reach the furnace. The integrity and strength of green pellets not only dictate the effectiveness of the furnace operation but also impact the overall environmental and economic performance of the steel production process.

The Influence of Particle Size and Shape

Recent advancements in pellet production have highlighted the significant impact of the physical properties of iron ore particles, particularly their size and shape, on the quality of the green pellets. These characteristics directly influence the mechanical strength and structural integrity of the pellets, essential for both transportation and smelting operations.

Understanding the Grinding Processes

The method of grinding the iron ore concentrate—a pivotal step in pellet production—greatly affects these particle characteristics. Two primary grinding techniques are commonly used: ball milling and High-Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGR). Each method impacts the ore's physical properties differently, leading to distinct outcomes in pellet quality.

  • Ball Milling: This technique produces fine, rounded particles that create uniform green pellets with good size distribution. This method's grinding action primarily involves impact and attrition, yielding a product with relatively consistent but smoother surface texture.


  • High-Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGR): In contrast, HPGR exposes the ore to higher pressures, creating particles that are not only finer but also more irregular in shape. These rough-textured particles enhance the interlocking and friction between them, which is crucial for the structural integrity of the pellets.


Pellet Quality Metrics

The quality of green pellets is evaluated based on several key metrics:

  • Drop Number: This measures the pellets' resistance to breakage from falls during handling and transport. Higher drop numbers indicate stronger pellets that are less likely to degrade into fines.

  • Green Compression Strength (GCS): GCS is critical for withstanding the stresses of transport and the thermal processes within the blast furnace. Pellets with higher GCS are less likely to break down during these phases.

  • Size Distribution: Ideal pellet sizing is crucial for maintaining consistent airflow in the blast furnace, which in turn influences the efficiency and stability of the smelting process.


The Benefits of Enhanced Particle Properties

Research indicates that the use of HPGR in the grinding process can significantly improve the drop number and GCS of pellets compared to those processed with a ball mill. The irregular and rougher surfaces produced by HPGR enhance the mechanical interlocking and capillary forces within the pellets, leading to increased physical resilience and reduced binder requirements.

Practical Implications and Future Directions

The insights gained from recent studies suggest that optimizing particle size and shape in pellet feed can substantially improve the performance and cost-efficiency of pelletizing operations. Furthermore, by enhancing the physical quality of the pellets, steel producers can reduce the consumption of energy and binders, thereby decreasing the overall environmental footprint of their operations.

As the industry continues to evolve, further research is essential to refine these findings and explore new methods to optimize pellet quality comprehensively. This ongoing development will support sustainable and efficient steel production, meeting global demands while minimizing environmental impacts.

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