Construction is set to begin on a “world-unique test facility” which is a key component of what will be the world’s first fossil-free hydrogen-powered steel plant.

Part of the Hybrit project, the facility will replace fossil fuels with biofuel to achieve fossil-free production of iron ore pellets.

Hybrit, a joint initiative between Swedish power company Vattenfall, Swedish-Finnish firm SSAB and Swedish mining corporation LKAB, aims to develop the world’s first process for fossil-free steelmaking, in which carbon dioxide emissions are virtually eliminated, by 2035.

The three companies, supported by the Swedish Energy Agency, joined forces in 2016 in an effort to revolutionise iron and steel production.

LKAB is working hard to determine the design of the next generation of pelletising plants. The biofuel-based plant will be built at LKAB’s Malmberget site, costing in the region of SEK 80m ($8.6m).

Testing a bio-oil system is part of the pilot phase and the objective is to convert one of LKAB’s pelletising plants from fossil to 100% renewable fuel.

According to the three companies, this means fossil-generated carbon dioxide emissions from the Malmberget operation will be reduced by up to 40% during the test period, which corresponds to about 60,000 tonnes per year.

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Source: Hybrit

Jan Moström, LKAB’s President and CEO, said, “Within HYBRIT, LKAB is examining options for replacing the heating technologies used in the pellet process, which are the heart of our processing plants.”

“In parallel, trials will be conducted in an experimental facility in Luleå using an alternative heating technology.”

“Trials will determine whether new biofuels and plasma burners will work in the unique setting of a pellet plant. Ultimately, this will make LKAB’s iron ore pellets completely carbon-dioxide-free.”

Construction underway for world’s first hydrogen-powered steel plant

The iron and steel industry is one of the sectors whose processes emit the most carbon dioxide in Sweden.

A growing population in combination with greater urbanization means that demand for steel will continue to grow until 2050. If the HYBRIT initiative succeeds, Sweden’s carbon dioxide emissions will decrease by 10%.

“Together with our owners, we hope to be able to solve the problem of emissions in the iron and steel industry,” said Mårten Görnerup, CEO, Hybrit Development AB.

“The initiative is decisive for Sweden’s ability to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and nationally, and it is our contribution to battling climate change. Fossil-free production of iron ore pellets is an important step towards reaching these goals.”

Following a prestudy conducted in 2016–2017, the first sod was turned in 2018 for a pilot plant for hydrogen-based reduction of iron ore in Luleå.

This plant, which is expected to be completed in 2020, will be used to test processes downstream from the pelletizing plant.

The investment in a pilot-plant for bio-oil in Malmberget, which is an important milestone for Hybrit and the development of fossil-free pellet production, is expected to be completed by 2020. The first tests will be conducted up to 2021.