Sweden Vattenfall and the steel industry conduct major research project aiming to develop fossil-free steelmaking

The Swedish Energy Agency is investing 5.9 million euro in a four-year research project whose total funding, including the contributions of Vattenfall, the steelmaking group SSAB and the mining company LKAB, amounts to 10.7 million euro. The aim is to eliminate emissions of carbon dioxide from the Swedish iron and steel industry by replacing coal and coke with hydrogen gas.

 "This is a very welcome decision. It is an important input to our common challenge to find a long-term solution to the carbon dioxide question, whereby Vattenfall will contribute with electrification and the production of sustainable hydrogen gas. It offers us a unique opportunity to make a pioneering contribution to a fossil-free Sweden," says Magnus Hall, President and CEO of Vattenfall

The Swedish Energy Agency had earlier supported the initiative with 800,000 euro for a pilot study. Because of the Agency’s decision to step up its funding, several additional research projects can now be initiated.

Only water is emitted
These research projects will be looking at several stages of the process, and Vattenfall’s contribution will be to develop solutions for the electrification of the industry, the sustainable supply of electricity for hydrogen gas production and the storage of hydrogen gas.

 "Vattenfall sees both business opportunities and climate benefits in this initiative, to which we can contribute with safe, sustainable and competitively priced hydrogen gas. By replacing coal with hydrogen gas, we essentially make steel production carbon-dioxide free where the emissions consists of water. If we succeed in this project, we can eliminate approximately 10 per cent of Sweden’s total CO2 emissions," says Mikael Nordlander, R&D Portfolio Manager at Vattenfall.

Vattenfall needs principally to solve two problems in the new production process: to supply hydrogen gas on a large scale under commercial conditions as well as to integrate this electricity-intensive process into the electricity system as a whole. In addition, Vattenfall will determine how hydrogen gas storage can be used to balance renewable production, for example wind power, which is currently running at excess capacity.

"This project offers us great opportunities to use hydrogen gas production to balance the power system, quite simply to handle the highs and lows of electricity generation," adds Nordlander.

New process by the 2030s
It was in the spring of 2016 that SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall launched an initiative to solve the carbon dioxide issue in the Swedish steel industry. The initiative is divided up into three phases: a pilot study that runs until the end of 2017, followed by in-depth research and finally testing the technology in a pilot plant up to 2024. After that, experiments will be run on a full-scale demonstration plant up to 2035. So it will be 20 to 30 years before this technology can be used for large-scale industrial production.

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