The world's first carbon-free steel, "green steel, was recently delivered to AB Volvo in Sweden, marking a significant milestone in the steel industry. This development is part of the HYBRIT project (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology), a joint venture between Swedish steelmaker SSAB, state-owned utility Vattenfall, and government-owned mining company LKAB. The project aims to produce green steel using renewable hydrogen at a pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden.
Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB, stated that the achievement of producing the first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for the company but also serves as proof that the steel industry can significantly reduce its global carbon footprint. Lindqvist hopes this success will inspire other industries to transition to greener practices, emphasizing that the steel industry plays a crucial role in emissions and solutions.
Steel, like cement, is a material that surrounds us in various forms, from cutlery to buildings, cars, and wind turbines. However, steel production is energy-intensive and contributes to over 7 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions annually, making it a prime target for emission reduction efforts. While steel has a high recycling rate, meeting growing demand necessitates the production of new steel. Finding greener ways to produce steel could contribute significantly to climate goals.
Currently, most steel is produced in blast furnaces that rely on coal and emit carbon dioxide. By introducing hydrogen into the process, emissions can be reduced. However, the hydrogen used in many industries is derived from fossil fuels. Using clean energy to produce "green hydrogen" through water electrolysis using wind turbines or solar panels offers a carbon emissions-free alternative. Despite the cost challenges, efforts are underway globally to develop hydrogen steel projects, with 23 projects planned or in progress across multiple countries.
HYBRIT's delivery of carbon-free steel is a notable achievement, but other ventures, such as H2 Green Steel, plan to enter the market soon. The European Union has set a goal to become climate neutral by 2050, spurring green steel projects' development. President Biden has also committed to reducing the cost of green hydrogen to compete with natural gas. These initiatives suggest that the availability of green steel may become more widespread in the coming years.