The first delivery of “the world’s first fossil-free steel” has reached its first customer, Volvo Cars. That’s the big news out of Sweden today, as joint venture HYBRIT — a joint venture between SSAB, the state-owned utility, Vattenfall, and mining company LKAB — announced its aim to revolutionize a steel industry that, by some estimates, produces nearly 10% of all harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m happy to be minister for enterprise and energy in a country where industry is bubbling with energy for a (green) reset,” Ibrahim Baylan, Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, told a press conference on Wednesday. “The goal is to deliver fossil-free steel to the market and demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale as early as 2026.”
This is incredibly swift movement from a project that was announced recently — just back in May of this year, in fact — and it’s super important. “Steel is the foundation of modern society,” we wrote then. “A material input to buildings, cars, railways, roads and bridges. While low-carbon technologies exist across many industries, for the steel sector, which emits roughly 8% of global energy emissions and is heavily coal-dependent, commercially viable alternatives are still at an early stage for industrial-scale applications.” And, for what it’s worth, innovations to reduce carbon emissions in the steel business can’t come soon enough, as steel sector emissions could grow to some 20% of the global “carbon budget” by 2050 if left unchecked.
That’s to say nothing of car production! In terms of car-building, Volvo has been quoted saying that CO2 emissions related to steel and iron production for its cars amount to around 35% of the car’s total emissions in an ICE car, and 20% in a battery EV. So EVs are better than ICE, but that’s still a whole lot of carbon!
The greening of the steel industry involves removing the coal-fired blast furnaces that have been at the core of steel-making since forever, replacing them with hydrogen fueled blast furnaces that burn much more cleanly and without harmful emissions (the only emission from the hydrogen combustion is water). How you get that hydrogen is more troubling, sure — but undoubtedly better than coal … right?
You guys know better than most, scroll on down to the comments section and let us know what you think of the switch from coal to hydrogen. Is it better? Is it worse? Is it just a greenwashing job that moves emissions from one place to another? I can’t wait to find out!