Similar to the cement and petrochemical industries in a way that they are all essential to the maintenance of daily lives, the steel industry occupies 7-8% of the total carbon emissions in the world. Although it is one of the most difficult industries to decarbonize, there are still a number of steel companies out there that have proposed ambitious targets. An example of this is the global steel giant ArcelorMittal, which aims to establish zero carbon steel plants by 2025.
ArcelorMittal announced in 2020 that it would reduce 30% of the emission for its plants in Europe by 2030, and would achieve zero carbon emission around the world by 2050. The company has recently signed a MOU with Spain on the co-investment of EU€1 billion for a significant degree of decarburization at the Gijon plant, which facilitates an annual production of 1.6 million tons of green steel for the Sestao plant 250km away.
How are major steel companies going to help with decarburization in high-carbon industries? What is the connection between the two aforementioned plants? ArcelorMittal has targeted the two critical procedures of coke and blast furnace by transforming the source of power from coal burning to green hydrogen. The 2.3 million tons of direct reduced iron (DRI) from the Gijon plant will adopt green hydrogen as the reducing agent in the future, and a hybrid arc furnace at 1.1 million tons using renewable energy as the power source is also planned for the plant.
The DRI will be transported from the Gijon plant to the Sestao plant in the future. ArcelorMittal aims to transform the Sestao plant into the first steel plant in the world with zero carbon emission, which not only requires a utilization of green hydrogen DRI equipment from Gijon, but also an increase in the ratio of waste circulation and recycling, in order to provide renewable energy for all facilities within the Sestao plant, as well as incorporate other technologies to replace the excessive fossil fuel from the steelmaking process.
However, this equipment is also dependent on the local government. Aside from needing EU€500 million, Spain must first establish an extensive solar hydrogen production system and hydrogen pipelines in the area, and ArcelorMittal also commented that DRI plants will still adopt natural gas in the future if green hydrogen cannot be obtained from a competitive price at the end of 2050.
ArcelorMittal is not the first company to produce steel using hydrogen. Emerging Swedish green steel business H2 Green Steel (H2GS) is also about to allocate US$3 billion to utilize the hydrogen derived from the renewable energy equipment at Boden-Luleå for steelmaking, and plans to initiate production starting from 2024. H2GS is expected to produce 5 million tons of zero carbon steel each year by 2030.
The total capacity from these two green steel projects is merely 6.6 million tons, which account for 0.4% of the global steel quantity, and serve as the challenge for the steel industry in the next 30 years.
(Cover photo source: shutterstock)