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LKAB is joining forces with the energy company Vattenfall and the steel manufacturer SSAB to try to eliminate the climate impact of the Swedish steel industry. The ultimate goal is fossil-free steel making.

Vattenfall, SSAB and LKAB together formed a joint venture company, HYBRIT Development, in 2017. HYBRIT stands for Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology. The objective is to have a completely fossil-free process for steel making by 2035.

A feasibility study was conducted between 2016 and 2017. The report from that feasibility study was published in January 2018 and gave the initiative the green light. For the first time in 1,000 years, there is the prospect of a technological revolution, which begins in early summer with plans for the world’s first pilot plant in Luleå and Malmfälten. The initiative has the potential to reduce Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions by ten per cent, and Finland’s emissions by seven per cent. This venture has been described as crucial to Sweden’s ability to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Steel plays an important role in our modern society, and global demand for steel is expected to rise as the world’s population grows and urbanisation increases. If a new process for ore-based steel making cannot be found, carbon dioxide emissions from the global steel industry will have increased by up to 25 per cent by 2050.

HYBRIT is divided into three stages

  • 2016-2017 – A feasibility study to investigate all conditions.
  • 2018-2024 – Trials at a pilot plant.
  • 2025-2035 – Trials at a demonstration plant.

HYBRIT has from the outset received support from the Swedish Energy Agency (Energimyndigheten) for a number of activities, including a four-year research project.

Implementation of the project requires significant national measures involving the Swedish state, research institutes and universities.

LKAB’s role

Fossil-free steel production starts at the mine and LKAB is working hard to design the next generation of pelletizing plants.  The challenge facing LKAB, and its contribution to HYBRIT, is the development of carbon-dioxide-free direct reduction (DR) pellets. This means that LKAB is examining the option of replacing the technologies used to supply heat at the processing plants, which are the heart of our pellet process. Initially, trials will be done to replace fossil fuels with bio-oil. Concurrently, trials will begin in an experimental facility in Luleå to test other heating technology that will make the pellet process entirely carbon-dioxide-free.

LKAB is also working to develop the reduction process. Today, mainly coal and coke are used to reduce iron ore to iron. The idea behind HYBRIT is to instead use hydrogen, which has been produced using electricity from Swedish fossil-free sources, during the pelletizing process.  The residual product is water.

You can read more about HYBRIT here.