Green steel

Europe’s first commercial green steel plant to open in Sweden

"H2 Green Steel will begin producing Europe’s first green steel using hydrogen, making it carbon neutral, by 2025.”

If you follow decarbonization of the steel industry, these are the sorts of headlines that you read every day. This was just today’s. [March 2023]

Steel is one of those materials that we cannot imagine a future without. Although there are some applications where wood based materials can replace it, its just such a useful material and it can be fully recycled, so surely there’s a way of producing it which doesn’t cost us the earth.

Emissions from steel manufacturing

Steel manufacture accounts for around 8% of global anthropomorphic greenhouse gas emissions but its primary  manufacture from iron ores is irrevocably tied to coal consumption through the blast furnace route. Other direct production methods using mostly natural gas as the reductant make up a very small proportion of global production and are not suitable for many iron ore types whereas recycling steel through the Electric Arc Furnace is limited by a shortage of suitable scrap. As a result, until now reducing emissions intensity has focused on carbon capture and improving energy efficiency in blast furances

However, the failure to produce any meaningful emissions reduction through these methods has meant that steel producers are increasingly looking at other means of producing steel without the use of coal and using renewable electricity. As a result, we have seen the emergence of “Green Steel, most notably directly reduced iron (DRI) produced using hydrogen gas as the primary reductant, the intention being that the hydrogen should be produced using renewable electricity.

Beyond the headlines

However, amid these breathless headlines of investment into Green Steel, some of these same multinational steelmakers are investing even more enormously into building more coal fired blast furnaces in the developing world. So, what exactly is “Green Steel”, and is it more than just a way of Greenwashing the steel industry?

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