Vision of the green industry

HYBRIT – Towards fossil-free steel

In 2016, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT – an initiative that endeavors to revolutionize steel-making. HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen. The result will be the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint.

The steel industry is one of the highest CO2-emitting industries, accounting for 7% of CO2 emissions globally. A growing global population and an expanding urbanization are expected to trigger a rise in global steel demand by 2050. The carbon footprint in the steel industry is thus a challenge for Europe and the rest of the world.

This is why, in 2016, SSAB (global leader in high-strength steels), LKAB (Europe’s largest iron ore producer) and Vattenfall (one of Europe’s largest electricity producers) joined forces to create HYBRIT, an initiative that endeavors to revolutionize steel-making. HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen. The result will be the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint. 

Sweden has unique conditions for this kind of project, with good access to fossil-free electricity, Europe’s highest-quality iron ore and a specialized, innovative steel industry. HYBRIT has also started to investigate the possibilities of broadening the project to include Finland.

A pre-feasibility study was conducted 2016-2017. The conclusion is that fossil-free steel, given today’s price of electricity, coal and CO2 emissions, would be 20-30% more expensive. With declining prices in electricity from fossil-free sources and increasing costs for CO2 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. 

The owners gave the green light for the next phase of HYBRIT and, during summer 2018, work started on the construction of a globally-unique pilot plant for fossil-free steel production at the SSAB site in Luleå, Sweden. A joint-venture, Hybrit Development AB, owned equally by the three partners SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall was formed during 2017 to carry out the long term development work.

The total cost for the pilot phase is estimated to be SEK 1.4 billion. The Swedish Energy Agency will contribute more than SEK 500 million towards the pilot phase and the three owners, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, will each contribute one third of the remaining costs. The Swedish Energy Agency has earlier contributed SEK 60 million to the pre-feasibility study and a four-year-long research project.
The pilot phase is planned to last until 2024, after which it will move to the demonstration phase in 2025-2035. 

Already before a solution for fossil-free steel making is in place, SSAB aims to cut its carbon dioxide emissions in Sweden by 25% by as early as 2025, through conversion of the blast furnacein Oxelösund, Sweden, to an electric arc furnace. Between 2030-2040, the aim is to also convert the blast furnaces in Luleå, Sweden and Raahe, Finland to eliminate most of the remaining CO2 emissions and to reach the target of being fossil-free by 2045.

In 2016 LKAB decided that the electricity that is used in the operations must be origin-labelled and fossil-free. LKAB aims is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 12% per tonne of finished product by 2021 and at the same time reduce emissions of nitrogen to air. Vattenfall have been electrifying industries, powering homes and transforming life through innovation for more than 100 years. The goal, is to enable fossil free living within one generation. 

To be able to carry out  the HYBRIT initiative, however, significant national contributions are still required from the state, research institutions and universities. There has to be good access to fossil-free electricity, improved infrastructure and rapid expansion of high voltage networks, research initiatives, faster permit processes and the government’s active support for the pilot and demonstration facilities and long-term support at EU level.

 
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