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Ground breaking ceremony held for novel fossil-free steel production pilot

In Sweden, a ground breaking ceremony was held on June 20 in Luleå marking the construction for HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology), a SEK 1.4 billion (≈ EUR 136.3 million) joint initiative of mining and ore producer LKAB, steelmaker SSAB and energy major Vattenfall along with the Swedish Energy Agency. Initiated in 2016, HYBRIT aims the design the world's first fossil-free ore-based steel production solution.

Shovel in the ground to mark construction start of the pilot phase of the HYBRIT project at SSAB in Luleå – a concerted effort with (LtR) Swedish PM Stefan Löfven (left); Niklas Nordström, Luleå Council Chair; Mårten Görnerup, CEO, HYBRIT; Jan Moström, President & CEO, LKAB; Magnus Hall, President & CEO, Vattenfall; Martin Lindqvist, President & CEO, SSAB; Rémy Kolessar, Swedish Energy Agency and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate Isabella Lövin.

To be built at SSAB’s steel mill in Luleå, the ground breaking ceremony was jointly officiated by the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate Isabella Lövin along with representatives from the three companies and the Swedish Energy Agency.

The pilot plant is expected to be completed by 2020. The initiative was given the go-ahead earlier this year to proceed from feasibility study to pilot plant.

According to Mårten Görnerup, CEO at HYBRIT, this could lead to a “historic shift” in production technique, with water as a by-product of steel manufacturing instead of fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The reduction reactions that take place in conventional blast-furnace that uses coke and coal or in a direct reduction fossil gas-fired ironmaking process represent around 85 to 90 percent of CO2 emissions in the ore-based steelmaking value chain.

“By testing in pilot scale, we can leave the small-scale laboratory environment and instead mimic the coming industrial process and prepare for efficient production. We are very happy to be able to enter the next phase and get one step closer to our target of fossil-free steel production, with all its environmental benefits,” said Mårten Görnerup, CEO at HYBRIT.

Of Nordic climate and competitive significance

Finland and Sweden both have significant mining, iron and steel industries and HYBRIT has the potential to reduce Finland’s total fossil CO2 emissions by around seven percent and Sweden’s by about 10 percent.

The pilot phase consists of two projects – the main project is the direct reduction of iron ore pellets using hydrogen (H2) gas and their subsequent melting in an electric arc furnace for steel production by develop a technique in which pure H2 gas, produced using “clean” electricity, is used as the reducing agent in the production of sponge iron from iron ore pellets.

“Vattenfall wants to make it possible to live fossil-free within a generation. Helping steel production to change is one of the most important contributions we can give. By using our fossil-free electricity to large-scale production of hydrogen, we can enable technical shifts that will have a great impact on climate emissions,” said Magnus Hall, President and CEO at Vattenfall.

The second project for which the ground looks into the development of a fossil-free heating technique for the sintering of iron ore pellets. The dual aim is to reduce emissions from existing pellet plants and to design a new pelletizing process.

“Fossil-free steel production starts in the mine, we are working intensely with how the future pelletizing plant should be constructed to find an energy efficient production process. The challenge for LKAB in HYBRIT, and our contribution is to develop carbon dioxide free direct reduction pellets. This is where the pilot plant will play a crucial part before we can take it to an industrial scale,” explained Jan Moström, President and CEO at LKAB.

The construction start also means that the HYBRIT initiative is now entering its second phase, with possibilities of full-scale testing and development of the technique to replace coal and coke in the iron and steel manufacturing process. The goal is to have an industrial process in place by 2035.

“By starting to build the pilot plant, where we’ll develop and scale up the technology for fossil-free steel production, we’re taking an important step forwards towards SSAB’s goal of being fossil-free by 2045. We’re proud of being part of an important and challenging technological shift that can result in our solving part of the climate issue,” said Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO at SSAB.

Moreover, HYBRIT has a global potential to reduce CO2 emissions. This historic technological shift has been described as crucial for Sweden to be able to achieve the goals set out in the Paris agreement. Something that both PM Löfven and Deputy PM Lövin remarked on during their address respectively.

Two notably pleased and proud top politicians officiated at the ground breaking ceremony, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (left) and Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for International Development Cooperation & Climate Isabella Lövin.

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