In June 2018, a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony was held at a steel pilot plant in Lulea, northern Sweden, marking the official launch of a project that will revolutionize steel manufacturing, which is expected to be a steel mill. The carbon emissions have fallen to near zero.
The project, called “HYBRIT, HYdrogen BReakthrough Ironmaking Technology”, aims to replace coke used in traditional ironmaking with hydrogen produced from renewable electricity. Both coke and hydrogen can be used as reducing agents to remove impurities from iron ore. In a traditional ironmaking process, carbon in coke reacts with oxygen in iron ore to form carbon dioxide. If hydrogen is used instead of coke, hydrogen will react with oxygen in the iron ore to form water vapor.
The professionals involved in the project believe that the project is expected to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the steel industry in Sweden and other countries. In fact, the global steel industry has been working to improve the efficiency of steel production processes, and now producing one ton of steel consumes only 40% of the energy needed in 1960.
HYBRIT is a joint venture between the Swedish steel company, the largest steel producer in Northern Europe, LKAB, the largest iron ore producer in Europe, and Sweden’s Great Falls Power Company, one of Europe’s largest power producers. If the project is successful, it is expected to reduce the total carbon dioxide emissions in Sweden and Finland by 10% and 7% respectively.
Mårten Görnerup, CEO of the joint venture, introduced the timetable for the project: a preliminary feasibility study was started in 2016 and a pilot plant is currently under construction, which will be commissioned between 2020 and 2024. By 2028, we plan The pilot plant was expanded into a demonstration plant and operated as an industrial production facility for 24 hours a month. If all goes well, formal industrial production will be achieved in 2035.
Currently, most of the hydrogen is produced by a steam reforming process that uses high temperature steam to extract hydrogen from fossil fuel natural gas. What is special about the HYBRIT process is that all hydrogen is obtained by electrolysis of the current through the water. Although this process is energy intensive, if the required power can be regenerated, the carbon footprint of the entire process is negligible.
Based on a combination of factors, Sweden is an ideal location for the HYBRIT project. Görnerup said: “Sweden has excellent renewable power resources, convenient water resources, Europe’s best quality iron ore and a steel industry focused on quality and innovation. The signing of the Paris Agreement and the Swedish National Parliament on Sweden will be in 2045. The resolution to use fossil fuels in electricity production was phased out a few years ago, creating a perfect opportunity for the development of the project.”
▲ The groundbreaking ceremony of the HYBRIT project, the project is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of the steel production process
In the future, the plant will conduct production trials to find the best conditions for reducing carbon emissions. Through the test work, the operating principle of the intricate industrial production system of steel will be more clearly demonstrated, on the basis of which a more efficient process will be established.
Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of Swedish Steel, added: “The HYBRIT project is an important part of the Swedish steel company’s path to sustainable development. The preliminary feasibility study shows that the project is feasible and will be Our company creates exciting opportunities and we hope to be part of a solution to address climate change.”
▲Hydroelectric facilities operated by the Great Falls Power Company of Sweden
The HYBRIT project has received strong support from the Swedish government. In June 2018, the pilot project received the highest financial support from the Swedish Energy Agency for a total of 528 million Swedish kronor, equivalent to 51.3 million euros.
The initial research report shows that HRBRIT’s production costs are about 20%-30% higher than traditional steelmaking processes. Through the European Emissions Trading System (ETS), as the cost of renewable energy decreases and the cost of CO2 emissions increases, this is expected. A cost gap will shrink.
If HYBRIT runs successfully, it will have a major impact on the future of global steel manufacturing. Görnerup concluded: “The steel industry is entering a new era. HYBRIT technology requires a lot of cheap renewable electricity, but it is not available anywhere in the world. However, it no longer relies on coking coal as a reducing agent for iron ore. It will be a major innovation in the steel industry and will have a major impact on the steel industry’s response to the global climate change process.”