While there are already some ways to reduce the amount of emissions emitted in some areas, the industrial sector is one area facing the greatest challenges. Steel production alone accounts for seven to nine percent of all direct fossil fuel emissions, according to the World Steel Association. Therefore alternatives to the current steel production are urgently needed. An alternative is the production of “green” steel. So far, however, this has been more of a vision of the future. The Swedish steel giant SSAB has now managed to produce “green” steel and deliver it to a test customer. That is a world premiere.
Like many other areas, the steel industry is currently placing its hopes on hydrogen to reduce CO2 emissions in this area. For a really positive climate effect, however, the hydrogen must also be “green”, i.e. it must have been produced using renewable energies. In the case of the Swedish steel company SSAB, the green electricity is provided by the energy company Vattenfall, according to the company. Vattenfall is also part of the “Hybrit” consortium behind the project. The LKAB mining group joins them as the third member of the group.
Hydrogen instead of coal and coke
The three companies have been working on the production of green steel since 2016. The aim of the consortium was from the start to replace the coking coal, which was previously required for ore-based steel production, with hydrogen, according to the companies. The focus is on Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology, hence the name of the consortium. The groundbreaking ceremony for a pilot plant for green steel in the Swedish city of Luleå followed in 2018.
In June of this year, it was possible to introduce hydrogen-reduced sponge iron in this same pilot plant, according to the consortium. From this sponge iron, as a steel raw material, the green steel was now produced in the SSAB Oxelösund plant. For this purpose, “one hundred percent hydrogen instead of coal and coke” was used in production, as the companies involved announced. This green steel is now also retained in the domestic economy. The test customer who received the first product was the Swedish car manufacturer Volvo. These test delivery refers to the consortium in a corresponding transmission as an important “step on the way to a completely fossil-free supply chain of iron and steel production.”
Production on an industrial scale is planned for 2026
“The world’s first fossil-free steel is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, but also proof that it is possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry. We hope this will inspire others to accelerate the green transition as well, ”said Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB.
Now the companies want to scale up the production of green steel accordingly. The consortium plans to bring the steel to market and manufacture it on an industrial scale by 2026. The consortium is convinced that the use of Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology could reduce the emissions caused by Sweden by around ten percent.