Swedish steelmaker SSAB has partnered with miner LKAB and utility Vattenfall to develop a breakthrough technology to decarbonise its operations over the next 20-25 years without using CCS.
The three firms, all at least partly owned by the Swedish state, aim to use hydrogen fuel in the steelmaking process to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, resulting in a waste product of pure water and no carbon dioxide emissions.
This would enable Sweden to meet its long term climate goal of net zero emissions by 2045 but also develop technology that could be rolled out worldwide, according to Mikael Damberg, Sweden’s business minister.
“On the EU level, there should be interest in this kind of technological leap. Also it’s an interesting thing for us to discuss on the international level,” he said at a webstreamed press conference in Stockholm on Monday.
Big-emitting steel plants have steadily reduced their carbon intensity in recent decades but are viewed as unable to make many deeper reductions without changing the basic steelmaking process or burying the emissions underground.
SSAB’s launch of HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) would follow other innovative projects for low carbon steel including Tata Steel/Rio Tinto’s HIsarna being piloted at Tata’s Netherlands plant, or FINEX, developed by South Korean steelmaker Posco.
But it differs from those ideas in that it foresees being able to fully decarbonise steelmaking without burying any emissions using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
TIME AND MONEY
SSAB’s president and CEO Martin Lindqvist admitted the initiative would be costly and require state funding.
“It’s too early to say much about costs… it will be more expensive than building a new blast furnace, which I doubt anyone would do today, but that would also be extremely expensive,” he said, referring to replacing ageing infrastructure.
“We will need a lot of support, yes, part financed by Sweden, part by us as well,” he added.
The project is likely to eventually need to tap the EU’s proposed €10.7 billion Innovation Fund, which is intended to disburse cash raised from EU ETS auction revenues next decade to help bring breakthrough technologies to scale.
Read our briefing on the proposed EU ETS Innovation Fund
Before that it could seek earlier-stage EU funding such as through the Horizon 2020 framework, which Tata’s HIsarna has used for its pilot plant running since 2011.
HYBRIT’s EXPECTED TIMELINES
- 2016-2017 Pre-feasibility study
- 2018-2024 Feasibility study-pilot plant trials
- 2025-2035 Demonstration plant trials
The project aims to benefit from direct access to the key steelmaking ingredient of iron ore. LKAB is one of Europe’s few remaining iron ore miners.
The process is also expected to be very power hungry, and so will require huge amounts of clean electricity from Vattenfall’s vast hydro and growing renewables portfolio.
Vattenfall’s president and CEO Magnus Hall said the fully-fledged operation could eventually require 15-20 TW of electricity, equivalent to around 15% of Sweden’s current power consumption.
He added that the project could benefit from Vattenfall expertise in deploying hydrogen fuels for road vehicles, currently being developed at its German operations.
“Hydrogen will need to get more expensive to make this all work. Emissions will be more and more expensive, that’s the only thing we know,” he added.
By Ben Garside – firstname.lastname@example.org