The 150 year history of the Japanese steel industry dates from the first western blast furnace, which was built by T. Ohashi in 1857. Modern blast furnace operation at integrated steel works in Japan started in 1901 with the first blow-in of Higashida No. 1 blast furnace at Yawata Steel Works. Throughout the prewar and postwar periods, the steel industry has supported the Japanese economy as a key industry which supplies basic materials for social infrastructure and development.
After the period of recovery following the destruction caused by World War II, Chiba Works of Kawasaki Steel Corporation (now JFE Steel Corporation) was built and began operation in 1953 as the first integrated steel works in the Keiyo Industrial Region after the war. During Japan’s period of high economic growth, many coastal steel works with large blast furnaces having inner volumes of more than 3000 m3 and even 5000 m3 were built to enable efficient marine transportation of raw materials and steel products. Japanese steel makers introduced and improved the most advanced technologies of the day, which included high pressure equipment, stave cooler systems, bell-less charging systems, etc. As a result, Japanese steel works now lead the world in low reducing agent rate (RAR) operation, energy saving, and long service life of blast furnaces and coke ovens.
Following the Oil Crises of the 1970s, the Japanese steel industry changed energy sources from oil to coal and implemented cost-oriented operation design and technology. In 2012, the Japanese steel industry produced approximately 80 million tons of hot metal from 27 blast furnaces, including large-scale furnaces with inner volumes over 5000 m3. During this period, the industry has faced many economic and social challenges, such as the high exchange rate of the yen, oligopoly in the mining industry, global warming, and the surge in iron ore and coal prices driven by the rapid growth of the BRICs. The industry has successfully responded to these challenges and maintained its international competitiveness by developing advanced technologies for pulverized coal injection, expanded use of low cost iron resources, recycling for environmental preservation, and CO2 mitigation.
In this paper, the prospects for ironmaking technologies in the coming decades are described by reviewing published papers and looking back on the history of developments in ironmaking during the last 100 years.