Metallurgical Coal or Hard Coking Coal
Hard coking coal is an input into the production of steel, rather than being used only as a fuel in itself. In this way, the demand for coking coal is tied to the demand for steel. Adding to the value of this coal is the scarcity. There are few places in the world that have access to this resource, and Queensland is one of them.
With China, India and Japan being the primary buyers of coke (due to their demand for steel), Australia is very well placed geographically to export into those markets. Australia also poses less political risks than other regions with coking coal capacity. The 2023 outlook regarding the saleable production, export values and export volumes is set projected to increase. Download the full Department of Industry, Innovation and Science report here.
Breaking it down:
Coke is a fuel with high carbon content and few impurities, made by heating coal in the absence of air.
During the iron-making process, a blast furnace is fed with the iron ore, coke and small quantities of fluxes (minerals, such as limestone, which are used to collect impurities). The coke reacts with the iron ore to reduce the iron ore to iron and as well provides the heat to melt the iron ore and fluxes.
The result is molten pig iron, which is then converted to steel.
Coke in detail:
Essentially, the coke made from the metallurgical coal plays three roles:
Energy for chemical reactions.
Reducing gases to convert the iron ore to metallic iron.
A porous permeable bed to support the iron ore and allow the molten metal to flow to the bottom of the blast furnace.
Additionally, the coke should be of such chemical quality so as not to contaminate the hot metal with excessive sulphur, phosphorous and alkali contents.
This is where an emphasis on the quality of coal comes to the forefront. Futura’s coking coals have specifications that meet these high standards of low phosphorus and sulphur as well as being able to complement other coals properties when blended prior to placing the coking coal into the coke oven.
Metallurgical Coal Trade Map 2022
Source: Metallurgical coal - Resources and Energy Quarterly June 2022 (www.industry.gov.au/OCE)
Australia's Metallurgical Coal Exports
Source: ABS (2022) International Trade, Australia 5454.0; Department of Industry, Science and Resources (2022)