Energy

World's largest hydrogen "green steel" plant to open in Sweden by 2024

World's largest hydrogen "gree...
Steel production is responsible for about 8 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent of global carbon emissions annually, but hydrogen-based production offers an opportunity to make the process completely emissions-free

In 2020, the world produced about 1,864 million tons of steel, and since some 75 percent of the energy used in steelmaking comes from coal, each of those tons sent about 1.9 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The world can't get by without this ubiquitous metal at this point, but steel production is responsible for between 7-8 percent of global carbon emissions every year. This makes it a key target for decarbonization efforts, and it's one of the key areas where hydrogen is expected to be a cost-competitive alternative within a decade.

In typical production, blast or electric arc furnaces combine iron ore and limestone with coke (coal that's been baked at high temperatures to remove impurities) to create steel. But that coke reductant can be replaced with hydrogen, resulting in a process that emits nothing but water, and hydrogen can also be used to power the arc furnaces, giving you a steel production pipeline that's totally emissions-free.

Every major steel producer in the world is considering something similar to bring its emissions down, and there are plenty of incentives for downstream customers like automakers to get on board with green steel as it becomes available. A new development in Northern Sweden, headed up by the current CEO of Scania, aims to get some volume into the market early.

H2 Green Steel (H2GS) is working with a budget of around US$3 billion dollars. It will use hydrogen produced with renewable energy from Sweden's Boden-Luleå region, and production is scheduled to begin in 2024. By 2030, H2GS expects to be producing five million tons of high-quality zero-emissions steel annually.

The company says it'll be the first large-scale fossil-free steel plant, producing hot rolled, cold rolled and galvanized coils, which it expects to sell into the automotive, transportation, construction, pipeline and whitegoods markets, among others.

“We want to accelerate the transformation of the European steel industry," says Carl-Erik Lagercrantz, Chairman of the H2GS board, in a press release. "Electrification was the first step in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation industry. The next step is to build vehicles from high-quality fossil-free steel.”

This project is another encouraging indication of the increased appetite major investors are showing for decarbonization initiatives, which typically involve more risk and a longer wait for a return on investment than other places they could put their money.

But like all hydrogen-based initiatives, the H2GS project is going to need the price of green hydrogen to come down dramatically to realize its full potential. The vast majority of hydrogen produced today is grey, or dirty, often involving the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal.

Source: H2 Green Steel

6 comments
martinwinlow
Why no comparison with doing the heating bit with renewable energy just stored in batteries (albeit rather big ones) and save the 40%+ losses in converting renewable electricity into H2 and then burning that to make heat? That won't work for the 'reduction' bit but I'm guessing that is relatively small in H2 needs than the heating bit. Other far more efficient (but more practical as well as novel) means of storing heat made from renewable electricity exist, too eg heat batteries. These offer much more promise than the very tired H2 route.

Why is Scania not spending their billions on this sort of tech rather than trying to re-invent the (very broken) wheel of 'the Hydrogen economy', especially after giving up so recently (3 weeks ago) on the idea of using H2-powered fuel cell trucks to replace diesel ones? (newatlas.com/automotive/scania-ditches-hydrogen/)
martinwinlow
Also interesting to note that H2GS' US$3b investment is the entire budget that the UK's government has for transitioning all UK road vehicles away from fossil fuels to electric-drive by 2035. (gov.uk/government/consultations/the-consumer-experience-at-public-electric-vehicle-chargepoints/the-consumer-experience-at-public-chargepoints ... Sigh).
paul314
Given the (relatively small amount of) carbon incorporated in many steel alloys, could a steel plant technically be carbon-negative? Or does the hydrogen process preclude that?
NZRalphy
Yeah, Yeah.... saving the planet....Bla Bla. I want to know why they combined the garage doors with the steel storage warehouse?!
TomLeeM
I think that is a very green way to make steel. I think hydrogen is the future.

I don't think it is an industry where one could electric power. I think it would require more power than would be able to be made using 'renewable' power sources; solar and wind.
ljaques
Kudos to them for the effort. Now we'll see if it's cost-competitive, too.