HFB (Hauts-Fourneaux B) | Blast Furnace

This post is also available in: nlDutch

HFB is a big steel factory which consists of a coke factory and a blast furnace. The Cockerill Sambre’s HFB (Hauts-Fourneaux B) site was once the largest coking plant in Belgium.


The history

The HFB factories were built in 1962. In 2008, this blast furnace was temporarily out of use in connection with the economic crisis and the low demand for steel. In 2010, the blast furnace was restarted.

In October 2011, the people of the region of Liège received bad news: Arcelor / Mittal had decided to permanently shut down both blast furnaces. The demand for new steel remained too low and there was a considerable overproduction. This was not only bad news for the steel workers of Liège , but also for the port workers of Antwerp: iron ore and coal are being transported via Antwerp, to be transported with inland vessels trouhgh the Albert Canal. In 2014 the blast furnace was finally closed.


After the blast furnaces where shut down there was some maintenance being done. There was a possibility that they were taken into production again. So they were kept in a good condition ready to fire again.


The blast furnace process explained

A blast furnace is a plant in which iron ore and carbon (coke) are mixed and heated to such an extent that a number of chemical reactions produce liquid iron in which a certain percentage of carbon is dissolved, which can then be drained. At the same time, the carbon serves as a fuel for heating and as a iron ore reducing agent


The cokesfactory
Coke is coal that has been removed with a special heat treatment of impurities to make it a more pure fuel. Cokes are produced by heating coal to about 1100 degrees Celsius. At a temperature of about 300 to 600 degrees centigrade, the coal becomes liquid and solidifies when all volatile components have evolved. The remains of some parts of the coal create a porous structure. This treatment gives the coke properties which makes it suitable for use in blast furnaces. The volatile constituents released during the coking process are later partially condensed, as coal tar.


The remaining gas, mainly methane and hydrogen, is often used for energy recovery after a number of cleaning steps. During the cleaning steps substances such as ammonia, hydrogen sulphate, benzene, toluene and xylene can be recovered. The ammonia can be used to make, for example, inorganic fertilizer (ammonium nitrate), or nitric acid and the sulfuric acid for sulfuric acid or elemental sulfur.


The blast furnace
At the top of the blast furnace, separate layers of coke (2.5) and layers of sinter, iron oxide pellets & stuktts (1.6) are loaded. An alternative is to load sinter. Sinter is a strong and porous material of iron ore, coke, lime and flux. Below the blow nozzles, hot air (7, about 1200 ° C) and powdered coal (16) are blown in, optionally enriched with oxygen.

The oxygen from the air burns the carbon from the coke and coal to form carbon monoxide (CO). The CO gas, which has a temperature of about 2200-2400 °C, rises through the layers of coke and ore. The iron oxides in the sinter and pellets reduce to iron under these conditions and melt to liquid iron. This liquid crude iron is now siphoning down the coke layers and collects itself into the blast furnace.

When sufficient liquid crude iron has accumulated in the hearth, the blast furnace is opened at the bottom and the liquid grater (9) flows out through the tap hole. It is collected in mixers (11). These are train cars with a torpedo-shaped storage tank with refractory inner lining. These are transported to the steel factory for further processing. When all the iron has been drained from the blast furnace, the tap hole is closed again. Draining takes about 90 minutes.


Sinter, pellets and stukttsen contain, in addition to iron oxides, impurities including calcium oxide (CaO) and silica (SiO2). These materials also melt and form the snail (8), which is drained together with the pig iron (10) and processed in, inter alia, the cement industry.

Current status

The vastness of this location is huge and the installations and machines are impressive. This exploration could only be done after the plant shut down and many workers loosed their jobs.


The report is an ode to the many men – who worked for years in difficult circumstances and through the production of steel, making sure we can live and travel because steel is no longer gone since the Iron Age. thinking of their lives.


What is the location of HFB – Blast Furnace?
Unfortunately, I can not provide the exact location, GPS coordinates, or address. The location of HFB is somewhere in the province of Liege in Belgium and is not far from the Dutch border. It’s located near a big city.


Is HFB Blast Furnace easy accessible?
The terrain is very big and there are high fences with barbed wire everywhere. We walked quite a bit and eventually found a hole in the fence were we could pass through. It was only on the other side of the site. So we had to walk for another half hour to the interesting side of the site.


Is HFB worth a visit?
HFB is a very impressive site and a exciting place to explore. Due to the dangers it’s advised to explore the site with a small group.

Is there security at HFB?
There is always security at the site. On our visit we saw some security vans inspecting the vast terrain. Furtunately they did not see us.

Click to rate this post!
[Total: 1 Average: 5]