Pilot plant in Hamburg: Steel goes green
ArcelorMittal set to produce steel with the help of hydrogen
Steel is a key raw material for many industries, but its production is extremely high in CO2 emissions. ArcelorMittal in Hamburg has plans to build a plant for the production of steel using green hydrogen. The project, launched in 2020, has ambitious goals.
The aim is to render steel production in Hamburg completely CO2-neutral by 2030. To this end, the company is planning a pilot plant that will use hydrogen to produce around 100,000 tons of sponge iron per year for steel production as of 2024. For its implementation, the corporation will need large quantities of hydrogen from renewable energies.
The production of steel requires iron, which in nature practically only exists in the form of iron oxide. In order to turn iron oxide into almost pure iron, the oxygen atoms attached to it have to be removed. The resulting sponge iron is the starting material for steel production. To separate the oxygen from the iron, almost all steel mills worldwide use blast furnaces fired with coking coal, generating large quantities of CO2. As a result, steel production accounts for around seven per cent of global CO2 emissions. The so-called direct reduction process, in which iron ore is converted into sponge iron using natural gas, is more environmentally friendly. Hamburg is home to the only steel mill in Europe to use this method, and it holds a record within the international ArcelorMittal Group: per ton of steel, it emits around 800 kilograms of CO2, compared with around 1,800 kilograms emitted using blast furnaces. Now the company intends to make production completely CO2-neutral using green hydrogen at its Hamburg site.
The so-called reducing gas used to date is obtained from natural gas. Laboratory tests have shown that pure hydrogen is also capable of reacting with oxygen. To prove that the process can also be used in large-scale industrial facilities, a pilot plant is now being planned in Hamburg. It is expected to produce around 100,000 tons of sponge iron per year as of 2024. This corresponds to around ten per cent of the volume of the existing natural gas plant. For capacity reasons, the new unit will initially operate with "grey" hydrogen from natural gas. In the medium term, ArcelorMittal is counting on the supply of green hydrogen from the proposed electrolyser in Moorburg, which is expected to produce hydrogen from renewable energies as early as 2025. In addition, there are also considerations to set up the company's own hydrogen production directly on the plant site.
The available green hydrogen could supply not only the pilot project but also the larger plant at a later date, leading to the creation of a closed-loop system that will result in completely green steel production in Hamburg in the medium term.
Project in numbers:
0 CO2 as of 2030
Start of operations in 2024
100,000 tons of iron sponge per year