Voestalpine studies hydrogen plasma for green steel production

Voestalpine will investigate the use of hydrogen plasma in a carbon neutral steel production process at a new pilot facility at its Donawitz site in southern Austria, the steelmaker said April 27.

The project is part of the Austrian company’s goal to produce carbon neutral steel by 2050 amid its “sustainable steelmaking,” or SuSteel, research project.

S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed the cost of producing renewable hydrogen via alkaline electrolysis in Europe at Eur11.46/kg ($12.17/kg) April 26 (Netherlands, including capex), based on month-ahead power prices, down from a peak of Eur29.40/kg March 7.

Voestalpine is currently Europe’s only steel manufacturer conducting research into the use of hydrogen plasma in steelmaking.

Conventional steel production uses coke, coal or natural gas as a reducing agent for ores, and the SuSteel project replaces these with hydrogen. Hydrogen plasma is used to simultaneously reduce iron ore and smelt it into crude steel in a special direct current electric arc furnace. The advantage of using green electricity and hydrogen as the reducing agent is that water vapor is the only end product, completely avoiding carbon dioxide emissions, according to the statement.

“We are working at full speed on novel processes which will allow us to achieve the breakthrough of decarbonizing steel production at the sites in Linz and Donawitz,” Voestalpine CEO Herbert Eibensteiner said.

Voestalpine’s target is to partially replace the existing blast furnace route with hybrid steel production using electricity as of 2027, and then to successively increase the share of green hydrogen used in the steel production process to 2050.

“The requirements for realizing this revolutionary vision are clear: Green electricity and hydrogen must be available in sufficient quantities and at prices which reflect market conditions,” Eibensteiner added.

At Donawitz, in Styria, the company’s metal engineering division produces about 1.65 million mt/year of high-quality raw steel, which is processed into billets or pre-blocks. Most of the production is used as raw material for the group companies Voestalpine Rail Technology, Voestalpine Wire Technology and Voestalpine Tubulars, while the export share is around 15%.

The Platts daily billet assessment fell $5/mt day on day to $710/mt FOB Black Sea April 26, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights data.

— Annalisa Villa