As the 21st century progresses, the iron and steel industry represents one of the most important industries in the secondary sector, thanks to its contribution to the attainment of steels and alloys with an endless array of applications for our everyday life, from tools, household appliance parts to vital vehicle parts such as valves or bearings, to cite a few examples. Ferroalloys belong to the iron and steel field, referring to any iron alloy that includes constituent as well as carbon elements that are used in the steel industry to improve their properties, providing them with specific properties depending on the metal that is used in production. And their purpose? These elements are applied to improve their resistance to corrosion as well as to counteract the negative effects of sulphur during the production process.
There are a large number of ferroalloys in existence, depending on whether their main purpose is iron deoxidation or whether other metals are intended to be provided in order to obtain special steels with defined characteristics. The most common ferroalloys in the industry from the large range available, are ferromanganese, silicomanganese and ferrochrome, which we will explain in more detail below.
Ferromanganese is an iron alloy obtained during carbothermal reduction, a chemical reaction, with manganese oxide-based minerals. It is used for manufacturing different types of steel in the form of desulfurizing, eliminating nitrogen bubbles that may form during manufacture and reducing the amount of iron oxide resulting from the production process.
While this is a stable material under normal conditions, contact with moisture, acids or oxidizing agents produces metal oxides that can be harmful following prolonged exposure. Under European regulations, this does not present any danger for transport. However, it is important to take precautions to prevent the spreading dust from this ferroalloy, due to its pollutant nature and irritation of the airways.
Ferrosilicon is an alloy composed of iron and silicon with a content ranging from 40% and 80%, depending on the product quality differentiation. This ferroalloy is obtained by reducing the silica through coking coal in the presence of iron ore in blast furnaces. Its application includes its use as a deoxidizer in the production of stainless steels and for the production of magnesium through a special process known as Pidgeon.
Like in the case of ferromanganese, care must be taken with dust during transport due to the fact that, apart from being highly damaging to the environment, it also causes irritation in the airways. Ferrosilicon has the characteristic of producing hydrogen when in contact with moisture, which could cause an explosion or deflagration. The impurities from this alloy may generate arsine and phosphine, two very toxic elements that can cause poisoning.
This is an alloy obtained from the reduction of chromium ore or chromite and involves the use of more than 90% of the total production of the mineral. This ferroalloy is classified in the sector according to its carbon content, with a distinction made between carbureted ferrochrome (from 4% to 10%), ferrochrome refining (from 0.5% to 4%) or ferrochrome superrefining (from 0.01% to 0.5%), each of which has a different application.
Chromium is an essential element of stainless steel, its main application, due to how it favours hardening of these materials and improves wear resistance. Risks include the possibility of it reacting with certain acids and producing hydrogen, even though it is not classified as dangerous goods or material.
As already mentioned, these materials require special treatment during their handling, storage and transport. This is due to the fact that, by their nature, they may be harmful to personnel working with them as well as for the environment. Furthermore, as can be imagined, these special features make ferroalloys relatively expensive products.
Only specialised companies can work with these types of materials, such as Bilogistik, a specialist in the transport of all types of cargo, including those requiring special handling, including dangerous goods. Why? Because we have the machinery and technology required for the handling and transport of such materials, either by land or by sea. In terms of shipping, we work with different shipping companies and we charter bulk carriers (full or partial) with all kinds of materials, especially ferroalloys and ferrous metal products. We also have open cargo and specialised insurance policies for ferroalloy cargo to ensure a quality and flexible service to our customers that is tailored to the needs of their product.