In July 2023, Titania was awarded the FORNAX Project – a research project to study the influence of renewable hydrogen as an alternative fuel to natural gas in the thermal processes of preheating and annealing that are part of the stainless-steel sequence. All this, with the intention of finding more environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives for the stainless-steel manufacturing process.

FORNAX aims to theoretically and experimentally evaluate the substitution alternative in operational terms (stability, speeds, consumption, regulation, monitoring and safety), the effect on the characteristics of the alloys treated (surface quality, mechanical properties and corrosion resistance), and the impact on the performance of the refractory solutions used as protection in these furnaces (physical, chemical and thermal degradation mechanisms).

In particular, Titania’s objectives for this project focus on:

  • The experimental development of a new pilot line that emulates at test level the conditions of the preheating and annealing processes using renewable hydrogen as fuel (or hydrogen-gas mixtures in variable composition) in order to evaluate the influence of the process conditions on the surface quality of the different stainless steels and the resistance of the refractory materials under study, together with other parameters such as temperature stability, heating or cooling speeds, consumption of hydrogen or mixtures, and regulation and monitoring tools, as well as the necessary safety systems.

  • – The experimental development of a new pilot line that emulates at the test level the conditions of the pickling processes (vat system) in order to evaluate the correct removal of the surface oxides generated during the annealing treatments using renewable hydrogen (or hydrogen-gas mixtures in variable composition) as fuel, to optimise the formulation of the acid mixture and the operation of this stage.

To meet this challenge, a multidisciplinary consortium has been created, comprising four companies with the necessary capabilities and certification to cover the entire value chain of the project. Specifically, the consortium is made up of Acerinox Europa SAU, Refractarios Alfran SA, Tubacex Innovación SL and Titania. For its execution, the FORNAX project has a total budget of €2,549,143.24.

FORNAX is framed within the Incentive Programme for the Innovative Renewable Hydrogen Value Chain, in particular, Programme 4 “Basic-Fundamental Research Challenges, Innovative Pilots and the Forming of Key Enabling Technologies Within the Value Chain” in the framework of the Plan for Recovery, Transformation and Resilience (PRTR) funded by the European Union – Next GenerationEU of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (IDAE).