Water requirements of the iron and steel industry

Water Supply Paper 1330-H




Twenty-nine steel plants surveyed during 1957 and 1958 withdrew from various sources about 1,400 billion gallons of water annually and produced 40.8 million tons of ingot steel. This is equivalent to about 34,000 gallons of water per ton of steel. Fifteen iron ore mines and fifteen ore concentration plants together withdrew annually about 89,000 million gallons to produce 15 million tons of iron ore concentrate, or 5,900 gallons per ton of concentrate. About 97 percent of the water used in the steel plants came from surface sources, 2.2 percent was reclaimed sewage, and 1.2 percent was ground water. Steel plants supplied about 96 percent of their own water requirements, although only three plants used self-supplied water exclusively. Water used by the iron ore mines and concentration plants was also predominantly self supplied from surface source.

Water use in the iron and steel industry varied widely and depended on the availability of water, age and condition of plants and equipment, kinds of processes, and plant operating procedures. Gross water use in integrated steel plants ranged from 11,200 to 110,000 gallons per ton of steel ingots, and in steel processing plants it ranged from 4,180 to 26,700 gallons per ton. Water reuse also varied widely from 0 to 18 times in integrated steel plants and from 0 to 44 times in steel processing plants. Availability of water seemed to be the principal factor in determining the rate of reuse. Of the units within steel plants, a typical (median) blast furnace required 20,500 gallons of water per ton of pig iron. At the 1956-60 average rate of pig iron consumption, this amounts to about 13,000 gallons per ton of steel ingots or about 40 percent of that required by a typical integrated steel plant 33,200 gallons per ton. Different processes of iron ore concentration are devised specifically for the various kinds of ore. These processes result in a wide range of water use from 124 to 11,300 gallons of water per ton of iron ore concentrate. Water use in concentration plants is related to the physical state of the ore. The data in this report indicate that grain size of the ore is the most important factor; the very fine grained taconite and jasper required the greatest amount of water. Reuse was not widely practiced in the iron ore industry.

Consumption of water by integrated steel plants ranged from 0 to 2,010 gallons per ton of ingot steel and by steel processing plants from 120 to 3,420 gallons per ton. Consumption by a typical integrated steel plant was 681 gallons per ton of ingot steel, about 1.8 percent of the intake and about 1 percent of the gross water use. Consumption by a typical steel processing plant was 646 gallons per ton, 18 percent of the intake, and 3.2 percent of the gross water use.

The quality of available water was found not to be a critical factor in choosing the location of steel plants, although changes in equipment and in operating procedures are necessary when poor-quality water is used. The use of saline water having a concentration of dissolved solids as much as 10,400 ppm (parts per million) was reported. This very saline water was used for cooling furnaces and for quenching slag. In operations such as rolling steel in which the water comes into contact with the steel being processed, better quality water is used, although water containing as much as 3,410 ppm dissolved solids has been used for this purpose. Treatment of water for use in the iron and steel industry was not widely practiced. Disinfection and treatment for scale and corrosion control were the most frequently used treatment methods.

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USGS Numbered Series
Water requirements of the iron and steel industry
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
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U.S. Government Printing Office
Report: iv, 54 p.; Plate: 23.50 x 14.76 inches
Larger Work Title:
Water requirements of selected industries
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