Industry has decarbonisation technology, needs policy support: Primetals

The technology required for steelmaking decarbonisation is already available, but policy support is needed to make the transition economical, says Primetals head of sales direct reduction Christian Böhm. Moreover, a potential lack of feedstock for direct reduced iron production could pose a problem after 2030.

In order for hydrogen steelmaking to be successful, an economical supply of “green/yellow” electrical power and hydrogen is required. This means electricity costing $0.02-0.03 cents per kWh and hydrogen at $1-2 per kg. Prices must become competitive versus natural gas, according to Böhm.

There also has to be adequate iron ore feedstock supply. DRI-electric arc furnace route producers require high-grade materials, which may be in short supply following the expected commissioning of substantial new DRI capacity in the coming years.

There should be sufficient iron ore fines and DR-grade pellet availability until 2030. “But what comes after, it’s a crystal ball, we can only guess; but based on the number of direct reduction facilities and electric arc furnaces proposed, it will surely be a problem,” Böhm said at this week’s International Iron Metallics Conference 2021 attended by Kallanish.

The transition will be gradual and done in steps. This will first see the optimisation of existing plants, followed by the transition phase and then the final “green” steel phase. It will take time to change the mindset of people, Böhm pointed out. Moreover, carbon emissions need to be made costly to incentive this transition.

Around two thirds of global steelmaking is done through the basic oxygen furnace route. This route will still account for 55% of steelmaking in 2050, Böhm suggested. It is unlikely the world will achieve zero carbon per tonne of liquid steel by 2050, “but at least we will be very close”, he commented. The final phase will see a 70-80% CO2 reduction versus today.

“Technology is not the point, it’s the economics. We need the framework conditions to have these technologies being applied,” Böhm concluded.

Adam Smith Germany