Port of Rotterdam, TK, HKM explore hydrogen imports

German steel companies Thyssenkrupp Steel and HKM have partnered with the Dutch Port of Rotterdam to explore renewable hydrogen imports for use in the production of green steel, the companies said in a joint statement May 4.

The steel manufacturers will require increasingly large volumes of hydrogen in the production process as they move from using coal as part of the transition to renewable feedstocks and energy supply. Both companies have imported coal and iron ore via their own terminal in Rotterdam, then shipping to blast furnaces in Duisburg, Germany, by barge and rail, the statement said.

The companies are to investigate hydrogen imports via the Dutch port, as well as a possible pipeline corridor from Rotterdam to Duisburg.

“Vast imports of hydrogen are necessary if Europe and Germany want to reduce CO2 emissions and become climate-neutral by 2050, while maintaining its strong industrial backbone,” the companies said.

Platts last assessed the cost of producing hydrogen via alkaline electrolysis in the Netherlands (including capex) at Eur3.55/kg April 30. PEM electrolysis production was assessed at Eur4.54/kg, while blue hydrogen production by steam methane reforming (including carbon, CCS and capex) was Eur2.05/kg.

Blue hydrogen

Rotterdam is also establishing a CO2 transport and storage system, which could be used to store CO2 captured from the production of hydrogen from natural gas as part of the “H2morrow steel” project, in which Thyssenkrupp Steel is a partner.

The Port of Rotterdam, along with partners Equinor, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, is also exploring the production of blue hydrogen — produced via steam methane reforming with carbon capture and storage.

Under the H-vision initiative, a first hydrogen production plant with a capacity of approximately 750 MW is expected to be completed by late 2026. A second hydrogen plant can increase the total capacity to over 1.5 GW.

The main focus of the H-vision program is the production of hydrogen using natural gas and refinery fuel gas, while the CO2 that is released during production will be captured and stored in depleted gas fields under the North Sea.

H2 steel applications

The Energy Transitions Commission said in a report published April 27 identified the steel industry as an area where hydrogen application is likely to develop over the longer term “as the relevant application technologies develop and capital assets are replaced.” By 2050, hydrogen could account for 50% of the final energy demand in the steel sector, it said.

The report – “Making the Hydrogen Economy Possible” – said in the shorter term, hydrogen could be co-fired with coal in blast furnaces.

“Using hydrogen as the reduction agent rather than coking coal may increase steel prices by 40%,” it said, but added that the “green consumer premium” would be much less significant in finished products, adding less than 1% to the cost of a vehicle built with 1 mt of steel.

In addition, the ETC highlighted that constraints on the location of hydrogen production facilities could lead to changes in optimal locations for steel plants. Industrial clusters around a set of linked hydrogen infrastructure would be one such model, the Commission said.

— James Burgess