Decarbonising the global steel industry with hydrogen is possible and probably inevitable, but it will not be easy, according to presenters during Kallanish’s Hydrogen for Steelmaking webinar hosted on 7 December.
The global steel industry accounts for about 6-7% of global emissions, pointed out Kallanish Index Services managing director Steve Randall. Eliminating those emissions purely with hydrogen will be a challenge on two fronts – capacity and cost.
Nel Hydrogen chief executive Håkon Volldal said tackling the capacity side of the problem will involve a ratcheting up of next-generation capacity while meeting extant needs with proven technologies. Lower costs will follow as technology improves.
“If you invest hundreds of millions of euros in a DRI facility, you want to make sure the plant is actually working,” he commented.
Nel’s Herøya facility in Norway currently has a capacity of 500 megawatts. It is in the process of doubling that, and the facility may eventually be ramped up to 2 gigawatts. Sometime in the first quarter, the company expects to announce a US site for a 4GW facility.
SSAB vice president of sustainable business and public affairs Thomas Hörnfeldt added that his company’s HYBRIT joint venture anticipates shipping its first commercial product by 2026. The HYBRIT pilot plant produced its first fossil-free steel in 2021.
Crucially, fossil-free steel is identical to traditional steel once downstream processing begins, he pointed out. It is the shedding of carbon emissions during the crude steel production process that is truly revolutionary.
ArcelorMittal technical head of government affairs and climate change Stéphane Tondo anticipates the majority of EU steel production will be decarbonised by 2030. Getting there, however, will require massive investment in both green energy and electrolyser capacity.
Of the 157 million tonnes currently produced, about 60% – or 94mt – is suitable for conversion to the hydrogen process.
That will require 37-60GW of electrolyser capacity, 296 terawatt-hours of green electricity, and about €180 billion ($189.38 billion).
Such a massive effort will require a new slate of government policies to ensure an affordable, available, and stable hydrogen supply, Tondo said. “[Current] regulation is not helping the supply of hydrogen in a stable way for the steel industry,” he added.
Dan Hilliard USA