thyssenkrupp, German multinational within the industrial engineering and steel production sectors, has for the first time in the world, produced ammonia from steel mill gases as part of its Carbon2Chem project .

Steel mill gases come from steel production and contain carbon dioxide (CO2) which is used in the production of the chemical ammonia. Ammonia is then used to make fertilisers which improve food production. 

“Our Carbon2Chem concept has shown that it is possible to use steel mill gases for the production of various chemicals and thus achieve a circular carbon economy,” explained Reinhold Achatz, Head of Technology at thyssenkrupp.

“Our goal is the large-scale industrial use of the technology,” he added. 

Implemented on an industrial scale, the technology could make around 20 million tons of annual CO2 emissions of the German steel industry commercially utilisable. It could also be used in other CO2-intensive industries.

steel mill

The Carbon2Chem concept is based on the fact that steel mill gases contain valuable chemical elements, including carbon in the form of carbon monoxide (CO) and CO2, nitrogen (N2) and hydrogen (H2). They are therefore suitable for the production of carbon and H2-containing synthesis gas, a precursor for various chemicals. Examples include plastics, higher alcohols, as well as ammonia and methanol. In the chemical industry, synthesis gases have so far been obtained from fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal. Carbon2Chem not only converts the CO2 contained in the steel mill emissions but also saves the CO2 arising when synthesis gas is produced from fossil carbon sources.

The first ammonia production took place in the Carbon2Chem technical centre in Duisburg, a pilot plant in which laboratory results are validated under practical industrial conditions using gases from regular steel mill operation. This work forms the basis for transferring the technology to industrial scale.

There is also great interest in Carbon2Chem outside of Europe. The solution developed in Duisburg could be immediately transferred to over 50 steel mills worldwide. In addition, thyssenkrupp is already holding talks with interested parties from various regions on how the technology could be applied to other CO2-intensive industries. Carbon2Chem can make a significant contribution to achieving the goal formulated by the 2015 UN Climate Conference to achieve gas neutrality in the second half of the century.

Carbon2Chem is a major project coordinated by thyssenkrupp together with institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Max Planck Society and involving 15 other partners from research and industry. thyssenkrupp has invested €33.8m in the pilot plant and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided €8.5m for equipment and operation.