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Swedish Energy Agency to co-fund CO2 free steel industry research project

The Swedish Energy Agency has announced that it will co-finance a four year research project towards a carbon dioxide (CO2) free steel industry. At the same time the three companies behind the initiative SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall have announced the intention to form a joint venture (JV) to spur the SEK 99 million (≈ EUR 10.4 million) project.

Slabs are rolled into plate in the four-high rolling mill in Oxelösund (photo courtesy SSAB).

Slabs are rolled into plate in the four-high rolling mill in Oxelösund (photo courtesy SSAB).

The Swedish Energy Agency has announced that it will co-finance a four year research project towards a carbon dioxide (CO2) free steel industry. At the same time the three companies behind the initiative, Swedish iron and steel majors SSAB and LKAB, along with energy major Vattenfall, have decided to form a joint venture (JV) to spur the SEK 99 million (≈ EUR 10.4 million) project.

Reduce industrial fossil fuel use

Sweden is ideally suited for this type of initiative with its specialised, innovative steel industry, access to fossil fuel-free electrical power, and Europe’s highest-quality iron ore. The research project will take a look at processes such as fossil fuel-free pellet manufacturing, hydrogen-based direct reduction, and the use of sponge iron in electric arc furnaces, along with providing an electrical power supply source for hydrogen manufacturing and storage.

– One of the biggest challenges we face with global warming is reducing industrial use of fossil fuels. Investigating how to replace coal and coke with hydrogen in the Swedish iron and steel industries is both an obligation and a unique global opportunity to improve our competitiveness in the future, stated Erik Brandsma, Director General of the Swedish Energy Agency.

The research project has been granted SEK 54 million (≈ EUR 5.67 million) in funding by the Agency with the three companies contributing the SEK 45 million (≈ EUR 4.73 million) balance.

– It’s a real inspiration that The Swedish Energy Agency is helping to support Swedish companies in their efforts to introduce new innovative, environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes, said Jan Moström, CEO and Group Manager of LKAB.

Three-phase project

The Agency had previously supported the initiative with SEK 7.7 million (≈ EUR 810 000) in funding for a feasibility study. SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall launched their initiative to solve the CO2 issue in the Swedish steel industry back in the spring of last year. The project’s goal is to come up with a process that emits water instead of carbon dioxide by using hydrogen instead of the current procedure that’s based on blast furnaces burning coal and coke.

– The Swedish Energy Agency’s decision to provide more financing for the initiative for a carbon-dioxide-free steel industry is very exciting news for us. It shows how important this work is not only for the steel industry, but also for Fossil Free Sweden 2045, said Martin Lindqvist, CEO and Group Manager of SSAB.

The initiative is divided into three phases: a pre-feasibility study that will run through the end of 2017, followed by research and testing in a pilot plant through 2024, and the final step, which involves carrying out testing in a full-scale demo plant through 2035.

– The announcement is extremely positive news. It’s a big help in our challenge to find a long-term solution to the carbon dioxide problem, where Vattenfall will be contributing in the areas of electrification and sustainable hydrogen production. We have a unique opportunity in front of us to break new ground and make a valuable contribution toward a fossil fuel-free Sweden, said Magnus Hall, CEO and Group Manager of Vattenfall.

Opens for more R&D

However, the Agency also notes that  in order to complete the project, a substantial nationwide cooperative effort will be needed from the Swedish government, research institutions, and universities over a period of 20-25 years. The decision to provide additional funding for the initiative opens the door for the launch of a number of new research projects by other organisations such as KTH, Luleå University of Technology, SWEREA MEFOS, Lund University, Stockholm Environmental Institute, and RISE, who will work toward the goal of a carbon-dioxide-free steel industry.

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