Steel production is one of many industrial processes that are ripe for improvement in terms of emissions.
Henrik Kettunen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Sweden’s SSAB says that it has “produced the world’s first fossil-free steel” and has started delivering it to the Volvo Group, its first customer.
The news represents the latest development for the Hybrit project, which was started in 2016 and is owned by SSAB, the energy company Vattenfall and LKAB, a mining and minerals group. Both Vattenfall and LKAB are owned by the Swedish state. The idea behind Hybrit is to use “100% fossil-free hydrogen” rather than coal and coke in steel production.
In an announcement on Wednesday, SSAB called the trial delivery “an important step on the way to a completely fossil-free value chain for iron and steel production.”
Looking ahead, the goal is to develop the technology so that it can be demonstrated on an industrial scale. It is hoped that this can happen as early as 2026.
“The first fossil – free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it is proof that it is possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the steel industry’s global carbon footprint,” says Martin Lindqvist, SSAB’s President and CEO,.
Steel production is one of many industrial processes that are ripe for improvement in terms of emissions and other measurement values related to sustainability. However, the challenge is great.
According to the International Energy Agency, the iron and steel sector is responsible for 2.6 gigatons of direct carbon dioxide emissions each year. In 2019, this figure was greater than the direct emissions from sectors such as cement and chemicals.
The IEA adds that the steel sector is “the largest industrial consumer of coal, providing about 75% of its energy needs.”
Hybrit is not the only project that wants to mitigate the effects of steel production. Another, H2 Green Steel, plans to build a steel production facility in northern Sweden which will be powered by a “green” hydrogen plant.
In February, the Swedish company, which is supported by investors including Spotify founder Daniel Ek, said that production would start in 2024 and be based in the country’s Norrbotten region. By 2030, the goal is for the business to be able to produce 5 million tonnes of steel per year.
Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways. One method involves the use of electrolysis, with an electric current that divides water into oxygen and hydrogen.
If the electricity used in the process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar, it is called “green” or “renewable” hydrogen.
In addition to steel production, aluminum production is another sector where renewable energy can play a role.
Earlier this year, the German carmaker BMW said it had begun buying and using aluminum produced with solar energy.