BMW invests in zero-emissions steel technology firm Boston Metal

Automaker BMW Group has invested in US metals technology company Boston Metal, joining existing investors BHP and Vale in CO2-free steel production technology.

BMW through its US-based venture capital fund BMW i Ventures invested into Boston Metal — formally known as Boston Electrometallurgical Company — to help facilitate lower emissions supplies, the company said on March 12.

“Over the coming years, Boston Metal plans to expand the new method for steel production on an industrial scale,” BMW said in a statement. “The investment is part of the BMW Group’s far-reaching sustainability activities aimed at significantly reducing CO2 emissions across the supplier network.”

BMW said it systematically identifies the raw materials and components in its supplier network with the highest CO2 emissions from production, including for steel.

BMW targets a 2 million mt/year reduction in CO2 by 2030 compared with current levels, according to Andreas Wendt, member of the board of management of BMW AG responsible for its purchasing and supplier network.

“It is important to us that our partners are firmly committed to sustainable action and use production technologies with low -carbon emissions,” Wendt said. “The use of green power also has a major impact. We are already working with suppliers who use only green power for the steel they produce for us.”

BMW’s European plants processes more than 500,000 mt/year of steel, it said. BMW has a goal to further increase its percentage of recycled raw materials by 2030 and wants to safeguard raw materials supplies through use in a circular economy.

Boston Metal is developing electricity-based molten oxide electrolysis (MOE) technology for emissions-free steel and metals production, using inert anode technology. This could replace iron from the blast furnace steelmaking route using metallurgical coal and coke. If electricity from renewables is used for this new process, steel production via MOE would be carbon-free, it said.

Boston Metal will build demonstration facilities for this process over the next few years, and further develop it for industrial-scale use.

“Our investors span across the steel value chain, from the upstream mining and iron ore companies to the downstream end customer, and validate Boston Metal’s innovative process to produce high-quality steel, cost-competitively, and at scale,” Tadeu Carneiro, Boston Metal CEO said in the statement.

BMW had already worked with Boston Metal prior the investment. The start-up works with companies to tailor the MOE technology for specific alloys, feedstocks, and business needs.

Boston Metal said BMW joined its $60 million Series B fundraising, which was oversubscribed, with investments of $6 million from Brazilian miner Vale, alongside capital from BHP Ventures, Energy Impact Partners, Piva Capital, and Devonshire Investors, the private investment firm affiliated with FMR LLC, the parent company of Fidelity Investments. Existing investors are Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, OGCI Climate Investments, and The Engine.

The Series B will allow Boston Metal to validate its patented inert anode technology at industrial-scale and deploy its molten oxide electrolysis process with customers, starting with high-value ferroalloy production and later advancing toward steel applications.

— Hector Forster