HYBRIT - Toward fossil-free steel
by Hans Diederichs
In 2016, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT – an initiative that endeavours to revolutionize steel-making. HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen. The result will be the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.
The steel industry is one of the highest CO2-emitting industries, accounting for 7% of CO2 emissions globally. A growing global population and an expanding urbanization are expected to trigger a rise in global steel demand by 2050. The carbon footprint in the steel industry is thus a challenge for Europe and the rest of the world.
This is why, in 2016, SSAB, LKAB (Europe’s largest iron ore producer) and Vattenfall (one of Europe’s largest electricity producers) joined forces to create HYBRIT, an initiative that endeavours to revolutionize steel making. HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen. The result will be the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.
Sweden has unique conditions for this kind of project, with good access to fossil-free electricity, Europe’s highest-quality iron ore and a specialized, innovative steel industry. HYBRIT has also started to investigate the possibilities of broadening the project to include Finland.
A pre-feasibility study was conducted 2016-2017. The conclusion is that fossil-free steel, given today’s price of electricity, coal and cost of CO2 emissions, would be 20-30% more expensive. With declining prices in electricity from fossil-free sources and increasing costs for CO2 emissions through the European Union Emissions Trading System (ETS), the pre-feasibility study considers that fossil-free steel will, in future, be able to compete in the market with traditional steel.
The owners (SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall) gave the green light for the next phase of HYBRIT and, during summer 2018, work started on the construction of a globally-unique pilot plant for fossil-free steel production at the SSAB site in Luleå, Sweden.
The total cost for the pilot phase is estimated to be SEK 1.4 billion. The Swedish Energy Agency will contribute more than SEK 500 million toward the pilot phase and the three owners, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, will each contribute one third of the remaining costs. The Swedish Energy Agency has earlier contributed SEK 60 million to the pre-feasibility study and a four-year-long research project.
Already before a solution for fossil-free steel making is in place, SSAB aims to cut our CO2 emissions in Sweden by 25% by as early as 2025, through conversion of the blast furnace in Oxelösund, Sweden, to an electric arc furnace. Between 2030-2040, the plan is to also convert the blast furnaces in Luleå, Sweden and Raahe, Finland to eliminate most of the remaining CO2 emissions and to reach the target of being fossil-free by 2045.
To be able to carry out the HYBRIT initiative, however, significant national contributions are still required from the state, research institutions and universities. There has to be good access to fossil-free electricity, improved infrastructure and rapid expansion of high voltage networks, research initiatives, faster permit processes and the government’s active support for the pilot and demonstration facilities and long-term support at EU level.
Source and photo: SSAB Swedish Steel GmbH