SSAB launches extensive research project "Towards Fossil-free Steel"

by David Fleschen

SSAB aims to be completely fossil free and to remove the company’s fossil carbon dioxide emissions by 2045. In 2016, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall announced the HYBRIT initiative, where the blast furnace process, which causes around 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions originating in blast-furnace-based steelmaking, will be replaced by electric arc furnace technology using direct reduced iron, or sponge iron, obtained using green hydrogen. The new technology removes the use of fossil coking coal needed in the production of crude iron and the remaining fossil fuels needed in production will be replaced with biogas or by electrifying the processes.

The Towards Fossil-free Steel research project now launched supports SSAB’s strategic goal of gradually transitioning towards fossil-free steelmaking by mapping the solutions and alternatives to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy in steelmaking. The FFS research project is a continuation of the 2020 Energy4HYBRIT prefeasibility project, which investigated the need and availability of biomaterial and bioenergy and the techno-economic possibilities to use these in the steel mill processes at SSAB Raahe. The FFS project will build on this work and the goal is to determine solutions to produce green forms of energy, i.e. hydrogen, biochar and biogas - for the steel industry. In addition, the project will study the smelting of hydrogen-reduced sponge iron in an electric arc furnace, the manufacture of fossil-free lime and new solutions to utilize the by-products created in the steelmaking processes.

The FFS project will also build the new expertise needed and support billion-euro investment decisions that will correspondingly contribute to reaching goal of carbon neutrality. The project has a total budget of EUR 10.7 million and Business Finland is contributing EUR 5.6 million to the project for a period of two years.

“The FFS project highlights building research cooperation with major domestic companies in the energy sector in, for example, the area of green hydrogen. One of the challenges in the project will be to combine a new production technology, new forms of energy and the manufacture of demanding high-strength steels into an economically viable concept taking into account sustainability,” says Jarmo Lilja, Process Development Manager at SSAB Raahe.

The FFS project business consortium consists of SSAB, Ovako, Fortum, Valmet, Nordkalk, Tapojärvi and Luxmet. The University of Oulu, VTT Technical Research Institute of Finland and Åbo Akademi University are involved in the research part of the project. Other companies supporting the project are ABB, Andritz and Finnsementti. The project is part of the Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers’ strategic agenda, which is based on Finland’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2035.

“The FFS project provides an excellent opportunity to study critical manufacturing stages and their phenomena in hydrogen-based steelmaking. I believe that the FFS consortium will be one of the first actors in the world to use research to solve the challenges of ensuring flexible operations in the process chain and quality production capacity,” enthuses Professor Timo Fabritius at the University of Oulu.

SSAB Raahe started technical planning in 2020 to transition to fossil-free steelmaking.

Source and Photo: SSAB

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