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Sustainability Shout-out

Sustainability Shout Out: HYBRIT Sets a Path for Fossil-Fuel Free Steel

Background image: Hybrit2

Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology, HYBRIT, is a coalition of three European steel and energy companies that aim to revolutionize the steelmaking process by developing fossil-free iron and steel production.

The strategic collaboration ensures comprehensive development of a fossil-free steel manufacturing value chain by bringing together:

  • LKAB: who produces 90% of the European Union’s iron ore
  • Vattenfall: one of Europe’s largest energy companies
  • SSAB: a steel manufacturer dedicated to decarbonizing the steel industry.

HYBRIT aims to create carbon-free steel by 2026. While increased scrap collection and better energy efficiency are viable methods of making steel more sustainable, HYBRIT will address the development stages of the steel’s life cycle by cutting fossil fuel from its transition from iron into steel.

Traditional Blast Furnace Production

HYBRIT Production

  • Sources power mainly from fossil fuels
  • Burns carbon and coke, the byproduct of baking coal until it becomes purely carbon
  • Removes oxygen from iron ore releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide
  • Removes impurities from the iron ore to create iron sponge, a prerequisite for steel production, releasing more iron ore
  • Sources electricity from wind and water power
  • Creates fossil-free hydrogen from water by using electrolysis powered by fossil-free electricity to reduce and remove oxygen from the iron releasing only water vapor.

The pilot program for hydrogen iron ore reduction was completed in Luleå, Sweden in 2020. LKAB Malmberget successfully created the first pellet in the fall of 2020 and is conducting trials to create the world’s first fossil-free iron.

HYBRIT has identified two sites in Sweden to expand their hydrogen production and sponge iron manufacturing to meet their goal of producing fossil-free steel by 2026. Their current challenge is finding a way to store hydrogen due to its high reactivity. Their current solution is to build an underground storage extension to their pilot site.

The next step of the steel manufacturing process is the smelting of the sponge iron. HYBRIT started trials for their Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) process in 2019 that will extend until 2023. Traditionally, the sponge iron is heated in a blast furnace until it is liquified and poured into ingots. The HYBRIT EAF can also melt scraps of iron, expanding HYBRIT’s ability to recycle steel and create a more circular steel value chain.

HYBRIT's goal to create carbon-neutral steel is groundbreaking and will have significantly reduce CO2 emission, the combustion of fossil fuels is the primary emitter of CO2 into the atmosphere. Their goal is to reduce Sweden’s emissions by 10% and Finland’s by 7%, making great strides to meet Europe’s target of being climate neutral by 2050.

Shout Out to HYBRIT for collaborating to create the breakthrough innovation in fossil-free steel. Its efforts will enable sustainable infrastructure and accommodate for Earth’s growing population.

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