Hydrogen use in steelmaking faces huge challenges: conference

Growing energy use in renewable hydrogen production, and the need for new infrastructure, integration and storage systems are major hurdles for policymakers and financial markets in supporting demand for a new green economy. So said participants at Thursday’s EURACTIV hydrogen in steelmaking conference attended by Kallanish.

According to Ruud Kempener of the working group on the European Strategy for Energy System Integration, the European Commission manages three packages to support H2 development. “The EC is focused on giving legal certainty to production, infrastructure as well as trading and licensing processes of the H2 value chain,” said Kempener.

The Commission’s proposals on an EU framework to decarbonise gas markets, promote hydrogen and reduce methane emissions are already in the discussion phase of this ambitious agenda, he added. The legislation is trying to answer the main problems and to lay the foundations for the new hydrogen economy as from 2023.

With the move towards mass hydrogen production, major changes are being seen in industrial value chains and the energy sector, pushed by higher climate change policy goals, observed Eurofer energy committee chairwoman Bianca Wien Prado.

“The steel industry is looking for a vigorous market that is capable of delivering low-carbon, renewable hydrogen in large volumes and in the shortest possible time. We are at the beginning of a big challenge in the production of H2, as there is currently no hydrogen economy and no basic infrastructure to deliver it to end consumers,” she commented.

Prado, who is also head of EU regulatory affairs at thyssenkrupp Steel Europe, pointed out that the steel sector urgently needs a legal framework to assess and advance investment towards decarbonisation goals.

Green energy supply for H2 production is also a big challenge. “In 2030, the steel industry is expected to consume almost 2 million tonnes of H2. Producing these levels of hydrogen requires about 165 terawatt hours of electricity, which is nearly double Belgium’s annual consumption. Meanwhile, in 2050, the market should absorb 5.5 million tonnes of H2, which means having an electricity potential of 400 TWh, something that now seems very incredible,” Prado explained.

Other participants at the conference agreed that EU countries should support more steelmakers’ projects based on the use of green H2. In the transition phase towards the green economy, state aid must solve problems such as the creation of a competitive network for the transport of H2. This is to avoid the relocation of some steel sector activities to sites with greater access to H2. An imbalance in EU energy prices must also be avoided, participants agreed.

They expressed concern that investment in the emerging H2 market is however largely conditioned by differences in legislation between EU countries, which makes compliance with the decarbonisation roadmap an even greater challenge for Europe.

Todor Kirkov Bulgaria