Sweden’s Volvo, SSAB to collaborate on zero-emissions steel

Swedish automaker Volvo Group and steel producer SSAB said April 8 they will collaborate to cut carbon emissions, with zero-emissions steel production starting this year.

Volvo plans to start the production of concept vehicles and components from steel made by SSAB using hydrogen in 2021, with smaller-scale serial production to start during 2022, the companies said. The companies said they expected “a gradual escalation towards mass production to follow”.

Direct reduction iron from the HYBRIT joint venture pilot plant using green hydrogen is planned to produce steel for use in trials, after the Lulea-based facility launched last year.

HYBRIT “will be used to make the steel for use in this collaboration,” and “will soon start to produce smaller volumes of sponge iron made using hydrogen,” the companies said.

HYBRIT is a joint venture between Swedish state-owned iron ore miner LKAB, SSAB and utility Vattenfall, which aims to use renewable power and sustainable fuels for energy and steelmaking.

“We are constantly looking at how we can become a more comprehensive supplier of fossil-free steel to customers like Volvo. We see a new green revolution emerging,” SSAB CEO Martin Lindqvist said.

“We will work together with our customers to reduce their climate impact while strengthening their competitiveness.”

To meet the Paris Agreement goal, by 2050 Volvo will review steel and other materials used in products and gradually switch to fossil-fuel free alternatives, said Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO at Volvo Group.

“This is an important step on the road to completely climate-neutral transports,” Lundstedt said.

Optimizing steel

Volvo and SSAB will work together in research and development to optimize steel in Volvo’s products based on weight and quality, developing a number of fossil-free steel products with the goal to reach serial production within a few years, it said.

The framework includes a logistics review, for use of Volvo vehicles powered by batteries or fuel cells which may reduce SSAB’s emissions from transportation.

“Newly made fossil-free steel from SSAB will be an important complement to the traditional and recycled steel used in Volvo’s trucks, construction equipment and other products,” it said.

“The steel industry considers the need for steel will grow significantly in the long term and that newly made fossil-free steel will be needed to meet this demand.”

SSAB produces steel in Sweden and Finland through blast furnaces at three sites, and intends to convert the sites eventually to electric arc furnaces. In the US, SSAB already uses EAF facilities.

The HYBRIT joint venture chose Gallivare in northern Sweden for a new demonstration scale plant expected to start in 2026 with 1.3 million mt/year capacity in hot briquetted iron, or sponge iron, with plans to double the venture’s initial HBI capacity in 2030 to 2.7 million mt/year.

The new HYBRIT demonstration plant will be integrated with iron pellet making to gain from efficiencies, and is part of miner LKAB’s transition plan to invest into HBI production.

SSAB plans to convert the Oxelosund blast furnace works in 2025 to an EAF fed by HBI, and plans to offer commercial quantities of its fossil-free steel in 2026.

— Hector Forster