Although it might sound absurd, "Green steel" is a term you will be hearing more of over the next few years.
The world's first carbon-free steel was delivered to AB Volvo in Sweden on Wednesday.
Although it's a test run and a bit of a publicity stunt, Volvo claims that it has ordered materials for the production of a new fleet green steel vehicles.
The Swedish steelmaker SSAB said that the ribbon-cutting ceremony is an important step toward a totally fossil-free value chain, from mine to finished steel.
HYBRIT (or Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Tech) was possible thanks to a joint venture between SSAB and Vattenfall, the state-owned utility, and LKAB, the government-owned mining firm.
It is one of the first attempts to use renewable hydrogen to make green steel at a pilot facility in Lule in northern Germany.
The goal is to demonstrate what HYBRIT can achieve at an industrial scale by 2026. Given that SSAB produces only 10 percent of Sweden’s carbon emissions, it could have huge consequences.
Martin Lindqvist (President and CEO of SSAB), stated that "the first fossil-free steel is not only a breakthrough in SSAB's history, but it also proves that it's possible for the industry to transition and reduce its carbon footprint significantly."
"We hope this will encourage others to accelerate the green transition." The steel and industry, in particular, are a major contributor to the problem. However they also contribute a lot.
Steel, like cement, is one of those things you don't notice until you look for it. You'll soon see it everywhere you look: In the cutlery on your dinner table, in wind turbines at the top of the hill, on bridges that you cross daily, in buildings you enter, in cars you drive, and in food cans you purchase.
Also, it requires a lot energy to make. Globally, each ton of steel requires approximately two tons of carbon dioxide. Steel production is responsible for about 7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year. This is slightly less than all of the cars on the planet.
The steel industry alone is expected to absorb 50 percent of the carbon budget required to keep the temperature at 1.5C by 2050. This makes it a great place for us to begin to reduce our emissions.
Steel has one of highest recycling rates, but new steel will eventually need to be forge to meet the demand. We could make big progress towards our climate goals if we could do this in a more sustainable way.
The blast furnace is the main source of steel today. This furnace often uses a process that involves coal and produces CO2 emissions. These emissions can be reduced by introducing hydrogen into the process.
Hydrogen energy can be used to power electricity and vehicles in certain parts of the globe, but the majority of hydrogen used in oil refining, chemical production, and other processes comes from fossil fuels. The United States' hydrogen is mainly made from natural gas.
While all of these methods emit emissions, there are better alternatives. You can also make hydrogen from clean energy. The power of electricity generated by solar panels or wind turbines can be used to reduce iron oxide to metallic iron, without any carbon emissions.
Even though it has become cheaper over time, the cost to make 'green hydrogen is still much higher than to use fossil fuels and natural gas.
This has been a problem for many countries. For example, in Australia, the government rejected a request to build the largest ammonium and green hydrogen plant in the world.
The EU has set the 2020 goal to become climate neutral by 2050. 23 hydrogen steel projects across the globe are currently in progress or nearing completion.
These ventures may be selling hundreds of thousands upon thousands of tons green steel made without fossil fuels in the years ahead.
HYBRIT's greensteel is not the first, but it may be the last. H2 Green Steel, another Swedish venture, plans to construct a renewable hydrogen plant that will produce green steel by 2024.
The United States President Biden has pledged to lower the price of green hydrogen in order for it to compete with natural gas.
However, Europe will soon have green steel for sale within the next five year. It is likely that other countries will demand the same.
Jan Mostrm is President and CEO at LKAB. He stated, "By industrializing the technology in the future, and making the transition towards the production of industrial-scale sponge iron, we will enable steel industry to make that transition,"
"This is the best thing we can all do together to save the climate."