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Swedish Energy Agency awards record funding to HYBRIT

The Swedish Energy Agency (Energimyndigheten) has announced that it has granted the HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) project, a joint venture initiative with mining and ore producer LKAB, steelmaker SSAB and energy major Vattenfall, a total of SEK 528 million (≈ EUR 51.3 million), the largest funding in the history of the Agency.

Hot coke being discharged from the coking plant where coal is converted into metallurgical coke at SSAB’s steel mill in Luleå before transport to the quench tower for cooling. The coke gas and coke are used in the blast-furnace as fuel and the reducing agent. The HYBRIT project ultimately aims to replace all fossil-carbon use in steelmaking by using hydrogen.

The Swedish Energy Agency has decided to fund the next step of the HYBRIT initiative to build two pilot plants, which are expected to be ready in 2020. In the plants, tests will be carried out to allow for a scaling up of fossil-free steel production.

The total cost of the pilot phase including the two pilot plants is estimated at SEK 1.4 billion (≈ EUR 136.3 million) with a total of SEK 528 million (≈ EUR 51.3 million) from the Agency and the balance from the joint venture companies SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall.

With our commitment to the HYBRIT initiative, we are driving the transition on to a fossil-free industry and a sustainable society. In addition, we contribute to long-term competitiveness for the Swedish iron and steel industry and switching up the work on green energy systems in Sweden, said Rémy Kolessar, Head of the Swedish Energy Agency’s Research and Innovation department.

Two pilot plants

The HYBRIT concept encompasses the entire value chain from ore to steel and not only contributes to reduced emissions in Sweden but also impacts internationally by reduced carbon footprint in steel production due to export.

The funding covers two projects within the pilot phase. The first project, “Preliminary Studies on Direct Reduction based on Hydrogen Gas with a Subsequent Steel Production Process“, concerns preliminary studies on the direct reduction of iron ore pellets using hydrogen (H2) gas and their subsequent melting in an electric arc furnace for the purpose of steel production.

These studies aim to develop a technique in which pure hydrogen gas is used as the reducing agent in the production of sponge iron from iron ore pellets. This is both HYBRIT’s core concept and the phase that requires the most research and development.

The second project, “Preliminary Studies on Fossil-free Pellet Heating“, investigates the development of a fossil-free heating technique for the sintering of iron ore pellets. The studies’ dual aim is to reduce emissions from existing pellet plants and to design a new pelletizing process.

The projects are seen as the next decisive step for the iron and steel industry’s transition towards reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and an important contribution to Sweden’s net greenhouse gas emissions target for 2045.

Trials at pilot-plant scale are necessary to verify our conclusions from the small-scale laboratory attempts on a larger scale that is more similar to the future industrial process. They provide the basis for a clearer understanding of what happens within an interconnected industrial system and how we can achieve an efficient production process. This is a critical step in order to ultimately reach our goal of fossil-free steel production and to reap all its environmental benefits. With that in mind, we’re very happy that the Swedish Energy Agency has chosen to continue to support us, commented Mårten Görnerup, CEO at HYBRIT.

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