Energy

World's 2nd-largest steel producer to begin making green steel by 2025

World's 2nd-largest steel prod...
Steel production is responsible for about 8% of global carbon emissions annually, but hydrogen-based production offers an opportunity to make the process completely emissions-free
Steel production is responsible for about 8% of global carbon emissions annually, but hydrogen-based production offers an opportunity to make the process completely emissions-free
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Steel production is responsible for about 8% of global carbon emissions annually, but hydrogen-based production offers an opportunity to make the process completely emissions-free
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Steel production is responsible for about 8% of global carbon emissions annually, but hydrogen-based production offers an opportunity to make the process completely emissions-free

The world produces more than 1.8 billion tons of steel a year, releasing nearly twice that weight in carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Indeed, steel production accounts for somewhere between 7-8 percent of global anthropogenic carbon emissions, so this industry is a key target in the race to zero by 2050.

Multinational giant ArcelorMittal produced around 5 percent of the world's steel supply in 2019. It's been the world's biggest steel producer for more than a decade, only knocked off that perch thanks to a huge drop in production in 2020. And it's just signed an MoU on a billion-Euro joint investment with the Spanish government to build what it says will be the "world's first full-scale zero carbon-emissions steel plant," to go into production making around 1.6 million tons by 2025.

The plant will decarbonize both key carbon-emitting steps in the steel production process – the reduction of iron, typically done with baked coal known as coke, and the blast furnace, which is typically coal-fired. Green hydrogen will be used as the reducing agent, in a giant 2.3 million-tonne direct reduced iron unit, and the company will build a 1.1 million-tonne hybrid electric arc furnace for the second step, to be powered by renewable electricity.

ArcelorMittal will rely heavily on the public purse – to the tune of 500 million Euro – as well as a range of other government-supported initiatives to develop large-scale solar-to-hydrogen and hydrogen pipeline projects in the area. Indeed, says the company, "should green hydrogen not be available at competitive rates by the end of 2025, natural gas would be used to power the DRI furnace."

That would still be a decent outcome; it would save around 4 million tons of CO2 emissions a year instead of the 4.8 million tons expected with hydrogen.

1.6 million tons a year is no small effort – and indeed, the H2 Green Steel plant in Sweden is set to contribute a further 5 million tons a year by 2030. But together, these two projects will combine to produce less than 0.4 percent of today's total global steel output. That's the size of the challenge this industry faces over the next 30 years, and we can only hope for the resounding success of these plants and other early ones like them.

Decarbonising our Spanish operations

Source: ArcelorMittal

4 comments
4 comments
Karmudjun
Marvelous article Loz,
Hydrogen and Natural gas make sense - but the process of producing steel without coke or carbon sources that contribute to global admissions sounds interesting, but it appears the process uses scrap steel as the raw material instead of iron ore. I guess any incremental improvement in carbon emissions is more than welcome so I'll leave it at that. Good article.
Johannes
Good news that at least one big steelmaker will be starting to cut emissions, but the challenge is huge. As indicated here, ArcelorMittal is the world's 2nd biggest steelmaker but there are dozens of others of similar scale not doing anything or doing very little to cut emissions.
And to correct one of the statements, Loz, the reduction of iron is carried out in the blast furnace, which is usually fired with coke, and sometimes also pulverised coal. It looks like ArcelorMittal will trial a DRI-EAF path, and so significantly shift its steelmaking technology.
martinwinlow
Using renewable electricity for the blast furnace is a no brainer but using 'green hydrogen' for the reduction is next to pointless as the huge cost of installing the infrastructure required to make the H2 will just generate hugely more CO2 than using green hydrogen would offset. If there is no other way, just stick to using NG for the reduction side of it. We only have to *reduce* our CO2 emissions not eliminate them altogether and using 'green hydrogen' (with the appalling efficiencies that represents) is just a colossal vanity project.
Don Duncan
I don't trust publicly funded businesses, generally. Tesla is an exception because they paid back their loan 9 years early and govt. taxes (takes away re-investment capital) and regulates, i.e., partly manages with destructive results. In this case, it is admitted up front that Hydrogen production is not economic and might not be, even by 2025. How efficient is this project? No one involved cares because they are not paying. This looks like virtue signaling, as in "see how responsible we are, on your dime."