A ‘globally-unique’ pilot plant for fossil-free steel is being planned for Northern Sweden.
Behind the HYBRIT initiative are steel producers SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. The planning and designing is expected to cost SEK 20 million and will be part financed by the Swedish Energy Agency (50%) and the remainder by SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. The Swedish Energy Agency has earlier contributed SEK 60 million to the pre-feasibility study and a four-year-long research project.
For the first time in 1,000 years, there is an opportunity for a technology shift and the initiative could reduce Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions by 10% and those in Finland by 7%.
The reduction in Sweden has been described as being crucial if Sweden is to be able to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The aim is to have a totally fossil-free process for steel production by 2035. The pre-feasibility study includes calculations and the potential in due course to be able to commercialize fossil-free steel. The conclusion is that fossil-free steel, given today’s price of electricity, coal and carbon dioxide emissions, would be 20-30 percent more expensive. With declining prices in electricity from fossil-free sources and increasing costs for carbon dioxide 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.
Even before a solution for fossil-free steel making is in place, SSAB aims to cut its joint carbon dioxide emissions in Sweden by 25% by as early as 2025, through conversion of the blast furnace in Oxelösund, Sweden. Between 2030-2040, the aim is convert also the blast furnaces in Luleå, Sweden and Raahe, Finland to eliminate most of the remaining CO2 emissions and to attain the target of being fossil-free by 2045.
The idea behind HYBRIT is to use hydrogen, which has been produced with electricity from fossil-free Swedish sources. The emissions would then be normal water.
The result will be unique: the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.
“HYBRIT is a significant part of the road towards SSAB’s goal of being fossil-free by 2045, and the report from the pre-feasibility study shows not only that is it possible to carry out this initiative, but it can also create exciting future opportunities for us as a company. We want to be part of the solution to climate change,” said Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB.
“Fossil-free steel production starts in the mine, and we’re currently working intensively on how the next generation of pellet plants will be designed, as well as how a future electrified and more highly automated mine should be designed. HYBRIT is an important driving force for LKAB,” said Jan Moström, President and CEO of LKAB
“It’s very positive that we can take the next step with a unique pilot plant, for both the project and for our work on the climate challenge. The industrial electrification and climate-smart hydrogen will be crucial factors in lower emissions and a fossil-free society,” said Magnus Hall, President and CEO of Vattenfall.
“With our commitment to the HYBRIT initiative, we are contributing to the long-term competitiveness of the Swedish steel industry and gearing up work on the unique green energy systems in Sweden. In addition, we help driving the transition to a fossil-free industry and a sustainable society,” said Erik Brandsma, Director General at the Swedish Energy Agency.
Steel is a significant element of modern society, and global demand for steel is expected to increase as the world’s population grows and urbanization increases. If a new process cannot be found for ore-based steel production, carbon dioxide emissions from the steel industry will increase by up to 25% by 2050.
Sweden and Finland have a unique opportunity to drive an initiative for fossil-free steel, with good access to climate-smart and fossil-free electrical power, Europe’s highest-quality iron ore and a specialized, innovative steel industry.