A ground-breaking ceremony in Sweden has officially marked construction at what will be the world’s first fossil-free hydrogen (H2)-powered steel plant.
The three partner companies in the HYBRIT project – Vattenfall, SSAB and LKAB – together with the Swedish Energy Agency have invested SEK 1.4bn in the pilot plant. The joint venture company aims to be first in the world to develop an industrial process for fossil-free, ore-based steel production. The project was initiated in spring 2016 and the goal is to have an industrial process in place by 2035.
Prime minister Stefan Löfven symbolically broke the ground for the HYBRIT pilot plant last week Luleå, north Sweden. Expected to be completed by 2020, the construction start means that the HYBRIT initiative is now entering its second phase, with possibilities of full-scale testing and development of the technique to produce steel by using H2 instead of coal and coke. This could lead to a historical shift in production technique, leading to water as a by-product instead of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
HYBRIT’s CEO Mårten Görnerup said, “By testing in pilot scale, we can leave the small-scale laboratory environment and instead mimic the coming industrial process, and prepare for efficient production. We are very happy to be able to enter the next phase and get one step closer to our target of fossil-free steel production, with all its environmental benefits.”
HYBRIT has the potential to reduce Sweden’s total CO2 emissions by 10%, and Finland’s with 7%. Moreover, HYBRIT has a global potential to reduce CO2 emissions. This historic technological shift has been described as crucial for Sweden to be able to achieve the goals set out in the Paris agreement.
Two pilot plants will be erected to develop the globally-unique and pioneering technology. One of the plants will be used to study the method to manufacture steel using H2 gas instead of hard coal. This type of process can lead to major environmental benefits as the current CO2 emissions are replaced by water vapour. Significant amounts of electricity are required to produce the H2 gas, and this is where Vattenfall’s expertise is needed.
The aim with the second pilot plant is to develop a fossil-free technique that produces iron ore pellets to ensure the entire steel process is as climate smart as possible.