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Steelmaker to develop hydrogen technology in bid for net zero

Published July 3, 2020

Steelmaker to develop hydrogen technology in bid for net zero

The European division of one of the world’s largest steel companies, ArcelorMittal, has described the carbon-neutral steelmaking technology it will use as it attempts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030.

To meet these targets, the company is investing in ‘Smart Carbon’ technology while also developing a new hydrogen-based method of steelmaking. The company also intends to develop new ways to increase the use of low-quality scrap metal in the primary steel production process. 

The company says it will need to spend €15-25bn to develop Smart Carbon and €30-40bn to switch to hydrogen.  

The company describes Smart Carbon as a carbon-neutral approach steelmaking route that uses clean energies such as circular carbon, clean electricity, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) within the high-temperature-controlled reduction environment of ironmaking.  

In its first phase, Smart Carbon will primarily use circular carbon which uses biowaste materials, such as sustainable forestry and agriculture residues, to produce bioenergy.  

Meanwhile, the company will research how to switch away from the use of natural gas to hydrogen as the key reductant in ironmaking. As this hydrogen becomes ‘green’, the steelmaking process comes close to carbon neutrality. 

Smart Carbon is expected to deliver results sooner, not only for the production of carbon neutral steel but also for carbon-neutral cement.  

By investing in both routes, ArcelorMittal Europe hopes to significantly reduce scope 1 CO2 emissions by 2030 over a 2018 baseline, while waiting for the large-scale, affordable renewable energy needed for hydrogen-based steelmaking. 

ArcelorMittal Europe is building industrial-scale demonstration plants at its operations in Belgium and France. The design end of an industrial-scale project to use hydrogen in the direct reduction of iron ore is taking place in Germany.  

The company has also called the right policy framework to enable European steelmaking to contribute to the EU’s climate targets, particularly given the costs involved.