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Hybrit Development begins building large-scale hydrogen storage pilot in Luleå

In Sweden, Hybrit Development AB, the Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (HYBRIT) partners SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall joint venture, has announced that it has commenced construction of a rock cavern storage facility for fossil-free hydrogen gas. The pilot-scale storage is next to HYBRIT’s pilot facility for the direct reduction of iron ore pellets in Luleå.

In Sweden, Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (HYBRIT) partners SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall have commenced building a 100 m3 rock cavern storage facility 30 metres underground for fossil-free hydrogen gas on a pilot scale next to HYBRIT’s pilot facility for direct reduction of iron ore pellets in Luleå (graphic courtesy Vattenfall).

As part of the SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall joint initiative HYBRIT, Hybrit Development AB is starting the construction of a hydrogen storage facility in Svartöberget to develop the technology for storage.

Fossil-free hydrogen, which will replace coal and coke, is a crucial part of the production technique for fossil-free iron and steel production, where emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be virtually eliminated.

Hydrogen storage is an important step in the development of a fossil-free value chain for fossil-free steel and is predicted to play a very important role in future power and energy balancing, and in large-scale hydrogen production.

By developing a method for hydrogen storage and securing access to fossil-free electricity, we’re creating a value chain all the way out to customers where everything is fossil-free – from the mine to the electricity and to the finished steel. This is unique, said Martin Pei, Technical Director of SSAB and Board member of HYBRIT.

The investment cost of just over SEK 250 million (≈ EUR 24.4 million) is divided equally across the holding companies and the Swedish Energy Agency, which provides support via Industriklivet (Industry Step) program – a long-term government initiative to support Sweden’s transition to becoming fossil-free by 2045.

We’re really pleased that HYBRIT is continuing to lead the development of efficient production for fossil-free steel, as we’re now also building a pilot storage facility for large-scale fossil-free hydrogen in Luleå. Storage provides the opportunity to vary demand for electricity and stabilize the energy system by producing hydrogen when there’s a lot of electricity, for example in windy conditions, and to use stored hydrogen when the electricity system is under strain, said Andreas Regnell, Head of Strategy at Vattenfall and Chairman of the Board at HYBRIT.

Adapted LRC technology

The 100 m3 hydrogen storage is being built in an enclosed rock cavern approximately 30 metres below ground. Building the storage facility underground provides opportunities to ensure the pressure required to store large amounts of energy in the form of hydrogen in a cost-effective way.

It is being built according to the high safety requirements that apply and checked by the responsible authorities.

The technique used to build the hydrogen store is called LRC (Lined Rock Cavern) and means that the walls of the cavern are covered with a carefully selected material as a sealing layer adapted to Scandinavian bedrock conditions that will now be developed further to handle the storage of hydrogen.

The storage facility is expected to be ready and operational from 2022 until 2024.

Hydrogen key to HYBRIT process

Fossil-free hydrogen is central to the HYBRIT process. Hydrogen can be produced cost-effectively through the electrolysis of water using fossil-free electricity.

The hydrogen produced by the electrolyzers can be used immediately in the plant’s direct reduction reactor to remove oxygen from iron ore pellets or stored for later use. The fossil-free sponge iron resulting from the process is then used as a raw material in the manufacture of fossil-free steel.

Fossil-free iron and steel production using HYBRIT technology, corresponding to SSAB’s current production level, will require approximately 15 TWh of electricity per year.

A total conversion of LKAB’s operations will, once completed, require a total of around 55 TWh of electricity per year, including the majority of SSAB’s needs.

This is another important step, not just for us, but in the conversion of the entire industry. With HYBRIT, we’re also working together to develop the technology for storing hydrogen in an efficient way, which is key to being able to produce fossil-free sponge iron, the raw material for the fossil-free steel of the future. LKAB will need to become Sweden’s and perhaps Europe’s biggest hydrogen producer in the future, and this pilot project provides additional valuable knowledge for the continued work in creating the world’s first fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry, said Lars Ydreskog, Director of Strategic Projects at LKAB and member of the HYBRIT Board.

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