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HYBRIT – Towards Fossil-Free Steel

HYBRIT - A Piece of the Future

The aim of the HYBRIT initiative is to replace the coal used to produce iron and steel from iron ore with hydrogen, produced using water and with fossil free electricity. This will remove the source of carbon dioxide and the byproduct will be regular water.

Vattenfall, SSAB and LKAB together formed a joint venture company, HYBRIT Development, in 2016. HYBRIT stands for Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology. The objective is to have a completely fossil-free process for steel making by 2035.

In january 2018, the report from a feasibility study was published and gave the HYBRIT initiative the green light. For the first time in 1,000 years, there is the prospect of a technological revolution, which began in early summer 2018 with the world’s first pilot plant in Luleå. 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.

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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

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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 reduction process. The residual product is water.

Fossil-Free Steel

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.

Episode 1: A Piece of the Future: The HYBRIT Initiative

The climate crisis is a crisis for humanity. At the same time the world needs iron ore to produce steel. A change is necessary. HYBRIT is a collaboration between LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall, aiming towards a completely fossil-free process for iron- and steelmaking. Instead of coal, hydrogen will be used to reduce LKAB’s iron ore to iron – the biggest technological shift in iron- and steel production in a 1000 years.

Episode 2: A Piece of the Future - Research

Instead of producing steel the traditional way, using coal, the aim of the HYBRIT project is to use hydrogen. A huge challenge from a research and development perspective but with an even greater reward - seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions today comes from the steel industry.

Episode 4: A Piece of the Future - It Starts in the Mine

It all starts in the mine. To become fossil-free steel producers, you have to start with the mine, from environmentally friendly production to completely carbon dioxide-free products. This means there will be no carbon dioxide emissions from either the mine, the logistics or the processing plants.

Right now we have a historic opportunity to do things that provide jobs here and now – but also hasten the climate transition that everyone realises is necessary.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven