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282: Hydrogen-powered steel

Problem:

Worldwide steel production currently totals about 1.5 billion tons (1.36 billion tonnes) per year, and each ton produced generates almost two tons of carbon dioxide, This accounts for about 5 % of the world’s GHG emissions.

Solution:

In 2016, Swedish-Finnish steelmaker SSAB, iron pellet supplier LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag), and electricity generator Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT – an initiative to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, in the direct reduction of iron (DRI) ore, using hydrogen.


During 2018, work started on the construction of a pilot plant for fossil-free steel production in Luleå, Sweden. Trials are set to run from 2021–2024, then scaling up to a demonstration capacity of 500,000 t/y in 2025 with completion set for 2035. the goal being to have a solution for fossil-free steel by 2035.

Hybrit is a significant part of the road towards SSAB’s goal of being fossil-free by 2045 If successful, HYBRIT means a reduction of Sweden’s CO₂ emissions by 25%. and Finland’s by 7%. (hybritdevelopment.com)

In 2019 steel and mining company ArcelorMittal with an annual production volume of 8 million tonnes crude steel, launched a project in Hamburg, Germany using hydrogen on an industrial scale to directly reduce iron ore for steel production.

The company aims to enable low-CO₂ steel production. In ArcelorMittal’s process, 95% pure hydrogen will be separated from the top gas of an existing plant by pressure swing adsorption. To allow economical operation, the process will initially use grey hydrogen produced at gas separation.

Grey hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced as a waste or industrial by-product. ‘Green’ hydrogen – produced using renewable energy – will be used in the future, when sufficient quantities are available. ArcelorMittal, working with academia, will test the procedure in the coming years at a site in Hamburg. Reduction will initially be carried out at demonstration scale – 100,000 t/y.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, steelmaker Thyssenkrupp also plans to phase out CO₂-intensive coke-based steel production and replace it with a hydrogen-based process by 2050. It has partnered with Air Liquide and the non-profit research institute BFI to convert a blast furnace to hydrogen operation.

On November 11, 2019, in an initial test phase, hydrogen was blown into one of the 28 Cu cooler tuyeres on Blast Furnace 9 in Duisburg. The NRW state government is funding this initial project phase under its IN4climate initiative. Following analysis of the test phase, hydrogen is then to be used at all 28 tuyeres of the blast furnace in 2023.

On the same day, what is currently the world’s largest pilot plant for the CO₂-neutral production of hydrogen successfully commenced operation at voestalpine AG in Linz, Austria. As part of the EU-funded H2FUTURE project, partners voestalpine, VERBUND, Siemens, Austrian Power Grid, K1-MET and TNO are researching the industrial production of green hydrogen as a means of replacing fossil fuels in steel production over the long term. (voestalpine.com)

Since November 2020 a 1.2 Mt DRI production plant powered by hydrogen enriched gas is being set up in China by the HBIS Group including a 600,000 ktpy Energiron DRI plant jointly developed by Tenova and Danieli in Italy. The HBIS DRI plant will use make-up gas with approximately a 70% hydrogen concentration, with a final net emission of just about 125kg of CO2 per ton. This is a historic step forward for the decarbonisation of the Chinese steel industry, which represents more than half of global steel production and related carbon dioxide emissions. It is scheduled to begin production by the end of 2021.

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