Materials

First "fossil-free" steel delivered to Volvo in Sweden

First "fossil-free" steel deli...
Sweden's SSAB has manufactured the first "fossil free" steel and delivered it to Volvo, which will make some electric trucks with it
Artist Lena Bergstrom produced the first object from SSAB's batch of fossil-free steel: this candle holder, "symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel."
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Sweden's SSAB has manufactured the first "fossil free" steel and delivered it to Volvo, which will make some electric trucks with it
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Artist Lena Bergstrom produced the first object from SSAB's batch of fossil-free steel: this candle holder, "symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel."
Artist Lena Bergstrom produced the first object from SSAB's batch of fossil-free steel: this candle holder, "symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel."
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Artist Lena Bergstrom produced the first object from SSAB's batch of fossil-free steel: this candle holder, "symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel."

A milestone in decarbonization today as Sweden's SSAB made the world's very first "fossil-free" steel delivery, created with green hydrogen instead of coal and coke, to a customer, Volvo, where it will be used in electric trucks.

SSAB's HYBRIT process uses hydrogen as the reductant as iron ore and limestone are combined to create steel, replacing "coke," or baked coal. The traditional coal-fired blast furnace is also replaced with an electric arc furnace.

The company makes sure the hydrogen electrolyzers, as well as its own arc furnaces, are run on "fossil free" renewable energy as well. What's more, all of the iron ore used in the process will come from "fossil free" mining operations.

What's this "fossil free" business? Well, SSAB is wary of the term "green," since there's no official definition or standards with which to hold anyone accountable. So it imposes its own: "created without using fossil-fuels or fossil raw materials. Fossil-free steel is made without creating CO2 emissions and by using fossil-free energy sources."

The resulting metal is of exactly the same quality as regular steel, but of course significantly more pricey. What effect will that have on the price of, say, a Volvo? Well, a base-model Volvo XC90 T5 SUV retails for a bit under US$50,000 in the USA. And a Bank of America Global Research Report quoted by Yahoo Finance indicates that raw material prices have fluctuated wildly in the last year or so, with the raw material cost of an average American car fluctuating between US$2,200 and US$4,125, with around 39% of that cost, or US$858 - $1609 being steel.

So effectively, the price of steel has doubled in recent times anyway, and it's still not a huge line item on the bill. SSAB hasn't revealed the terms of its deal with Volvo, but this clean steel business is at a very embryonic stage, so presumably the green premium on this particular venture is pretty huge.

Artist Lena Bergstrom produced the first object from SSAB's batch of fossil-free steel: this candle holder, "symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel."
Artist Lena Bergstrom produced the first object from SSAB's batch of fossil-free steel: this candle holder, "symbolizing light at the end of the tunnel."

Either way, Volvo has committed to having an entirely climate-neutral business by 2050, including its supply chain. SSAB, which sells more than 7 billion dollars' worth of steel a year, has committed to start manufacturing this "fossil free" steel at scale in 2026, and is aiming to have its entire business "fossil free" by 2045.

Sweden is poised to lead the way on green steel, with the world's largest green steel facility set to start production in 2024 – and every such effort will be vital; traditional steelmaking produces more than 1.8 billion tons of steel a year and rising, and releases two tons of CO2 for every ton of steel, accounting for between 7-8 percent of the world's total anthropogenic carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

This is viewed as a "hard-to-abate" industry sector, but today's news proves it's absolutely possible and the technology will not be the problem.

Source: SSAB

7 comments
7 comments
Expanded Viewpoint
Ya know what? The last time I checked, green plants take in CO2 from our atmosphere, and use it with sunlight and water to create this waste product we call Oxygen. So, how is cutting down on the CO2 in our atmosphere, good for plants? Don't they need more of it since they use it up in their growth cycle? Not asking this for a friend.
Sean Kerwick
Yes, this process will produce less to zero CO2. But using hydrogen in this was produces high amounts of NOx. Per The Clean Energy Group, "The bad news is that H2 combustion can produce dangerously high levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx). Two European studies have found that burning hydrogen-enriched natural gas in an industrial setting can lead to NOx emissions up to six times that of methane[sic]." So no Carbon Dioxide, but much more of another non-green gas.
Loz
@EVP - not sure if you're serious, but plants were doing just fine before the industrial revolution and their numbers have been declining. Other processes, including animals breathing, produce more than enough carbon to keep plants going.

@Sean - it's an electric arc furnace running on green electricity, not a natural gas burning furnace using a partial hydrogen mix.
Lamar Havard
Okay, so what method of production, and how much, energy was used to produce the hydrogen in the green steel?
christopher
ROFL - making gasoline powered cars from fossil free steel?

What about the elephants in the room? Limestone is just *another* fossil resource (usually formed from organic debris)

Steel = Iron + blank?

Where is that blank coming from, that *wasn't* originally organic (i.e. non-fossil)?
christopher
From https://newatlas.com/materials/cement-discarded-clay-carbon-footprint/ " limestone first needs to be extracted from the Earth, crushed and baked at high temperatures, which is itself an energy intensive process."
Johannes
@christopher ROFL - the article very clearly states in the first paragraph (!) that the steel will be used to make electric trucks, not ICE cars. And limestone isn't the result of fossilisation.