“The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it represents proof that it’s possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry,” said Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB in a recent announcement.
“We hope that this will inspire others to also want to speed up the green transition. Industry and especially the steel industry create large emissions but are also an important part of the solution.”
Like cement, steel is one of those materials you don’t really notice is all around you until you start to look for it. Then, you’ll find it’s just about everywhere: It’s your dinner table in the form of cutlery, in the wind turbines on the hill, in the bridges you cross every day, in the buildings you enter, in the cars you drive, in the food cans you buy.
By 2050, the steel industry alone is on track to gobble up 50 percent of the carbon budget needed to keep warming to 1.5°C, which means it’s a great place to start when it comes to cutting back our emissions.
All of these methods produce emissions, but there are greener alternatives. Hydrogen can also be made from clean energy. If electricity coming from wind turbines or solar panels splits hydrogen from water, its power can be used to reduce iron ore to metallic iron without producing any carbon emissions at all.
Yet despite growing much cheaper over the years, this process to produce ‘green hydrogen’ is still many times more expensive than it is to use fossil fuels or natural gas.
That cost has proved a barrier for many nations. In Australia, for instance, the government recently rejected an application to build the largest green hydrogen and ammonium plant in the world.
However, in 2019, the EU set a goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050. To get there, 23 hydrogen steel projects are either underway or about to start production across multiple countries.
In the years to come, these ventures could be selling hundreds of thousands of tons of green steel, made without any fossil fuels.
HYBRIT’s green steel is merely the first to be delivered, but it might not be the first to hit the market. H2 Green Steel, another Swedish-based venture, plans to build a renewable hydrogen plant and make green steel by 2024.
But if Europe is going to have green steel available for purchase in the next five years, it surely won’t be long until other nations demand the same.
“By industrializing this technology in the future and making the transition to the production of sponge iron on an industrial scale, we will enable the steel industry to make the transition,” says Jan Moström, President and CEO of LKAB.
“This is the greatest thing we can do together for the climate.”