ABB reported Nov. 9 that it’s publishing a report on carbon capture, hydrogen and electrochemistry as routes to decarbonizing primary steel production. The report, “What does the journey to fossil-free steel look like? How to achieve a sustainable future,” spotlights innovative new technology developments and approaches in Brazil, China, India, Sweden and the U.S., which are leading the way towards fossil-free steel.
The report includes insights from leading steel manufacturers SSAB, Tata Steel and Aperam, as well as experts from the American Association for Iron and Steel Technology and ABB. It discusses decarbonization challenges, including cost, complexity of transitioning to reduced-carbon technologies, and access to hydrogen, clean electricity, high-grade iron-ore and fossil-free carbon and lime.
ABB adds that present steel production is carbon- and energy-intensive, and classified as one of six hard-to-abate sectors. The global steel industry is responsible for an estimated 8% of the world’s energy demand, and generates 7-9% of CO2 emissions, mostly by burning fossil fuels, according to various sources including the recent International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Iron and Steel Technology Roadmap. To meet the criteria set out in the U.N.’s Paris Agreement on climate change to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 °C compared with pre-industrial levels, research by these organizations indicate the steel industry must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This will require radical transformation, especially because worldwide steel demand is projected to increase 30% during the same period.
ABB’s report also spotlights fossil-free steel innovations in five steel-producing markets, including:
• Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (HYBRIT) piloted in Sweden by steelmaker SSAB, state-owned iron ore miner LKAB, and state-owned energy company Vattenfall to make steel using green hydrogen and fossil-free electricity using high-grade iron ore from LKAB’s mines instead of coking coals;
• ResponsibleSteel industry association-backed Aperam, which has interests in stainless-steel and agriculture, and the use of charcoal produced from its 100,000 hectares of FSC-certified forests in Brazil as a renewable substitute for coal-based coke in steelmaking to reduce CO2 and stop using coal; and
• HIsarna process by Tata Steel in India that uses a powdered form of raw ore instead of processed ores such as coke, sinter or pellets to make liquid pig iron, which can reduce emissions up to 20% compared the traditional blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace (BF-BOF) method.
“Digitalization is intrinsic to collaboration between entities, but also for optimizing resources and energy management, and in providing the traceability required to keep organizations accountable to emissions targets,” says Shiva Sander Tavallaey, senior principal scientist at ABB Corporate Research Center.
The report further presents actions that steel producers can make to reduce carbon in the short- and medium-terms, as well as steps to take with industry suppliers and partners to work together towards a fossil-free, steel-producing future.
“Regulatory, commercial and social drivers are accelerating the journey to decarbonize steel,” adds Frederik Esterhuizen, global business line manager for metals at ABB. “But to address the core challenges set out in ABB’s report and phase out fossil fuels, the steel industry will need powerful, integrated solutions and must collaborate at every level of the global steel supply chain to succeed.
“A digital, autonomous and fossil-free steel industry is possible through partnership. ABB is taking an approach of partnership and collaboration to integrate innovative technology with ABB’s existing portfolio for the steel industry. Initiatives from around the world show that the industry is committed to a sustainable future, with several promising developments in the works. Through innovation and partnership, a green steel future is an achievable reality.”