basic oxygen process

basic oxygen process

basic oxygen process, method of producing steel from a charge consisting mostly of pig iron. The charge is placed in a furnace similar to the one used in the Bessemer process of steelmaking except that pure oxygen instead of air is blown into the charge to oxidize the impurities present. One desirable feature of this process is that it takes less than an hour, and is thus much faster than the open-hearth process, another important method of steelmaking. A second advantage is that a major byproduct is carbon monoxide, which can be used as a fuel or in producing various chemicals, such as acetic acid. The basic oxygen process also produces less air pollution than methods using air.

Steelmaking method in which pure oxygen is blown through a long, movable lance into a bath of molten blast-furnace iron and scrap, in a steel furnace with a refractory lining called a converter. The oxygen initiates a series of heat-releasing reactions, including the oxidation of such impurities as silicon, carbon, phosphorus, and manganese; carbon dioxide is released, and the oxidation products of the other impurities form molten slag that floats on the molten steel. The advantages of using pure oxygen instead of air in refining iron into steel were recognized as early as the 1850s (see Bessemer process), but the process could not be commercialized until the late 1940s, when cheap, high-purity oxygen became available. Within 40 years it had replaced the open-hearth process and was producing more than half of all steel worldwide. Commercial advantages include high production rates, less labour, and steel with a low nitrogen content.

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