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The need for a Green Steel Research and Innovation Programme

The steel industry is a sector with high CO2 emissions. However, in Sweden, companies are taking the lead towards more sustainable production using fossil-free hydrogen and bio carbon fuel sources and reduction agents. This program will go further to assess the properties of steel produced by hydrogen and when using recycled materials - as well as explore radically new production processes.

The steel industry is in transition

Under ground facility
HYBRIT's pilot facility for storing fossil-free hydrogen in Svartöberget in Luleå. Photo: Vattenfall

Coking coal has been key to steelmaking for over a thousand years. However, today, this means that the steel industry has a high carbon dioxide footprint. Nonetheless, times are changing.

Steel companies in Sweden, especially in the Norrbotten region, are taking a world-leading position in the industry's transition to more sustainable production. Starting with mining, LKAB are making annual investments of billions of SEK towards decarbonisating iron extraction and iron-ore processing. The steel company SSAB wants to be the first to launch fossil-free steel on the market in 2026 - by reducing the iron ore into pure iron using hydrogen instead of coal and coke. Furthermore, new companies are being established with the aim to produce green steel from 2025. This includes H2GreenSteel, which is establishing a new hydrogen energy plant and steel plant in the Norrbotten region. Elsewhere in Sweden, Ovako is producing steel, and Höganäs steel powders, from recycled materials using hydrogen.

These breakthrough climate innovations however pose the question of what else can we do to support sustainable transitions in the steel industry. Some questions the Green Steel Programme poses, and aims to answer, include:

  • What happens to the quality of engineered steel products, and slag (a bi-product of steel), when using hydrogen?
  • How can we overcome today's limits to producing quality engineering steel products when using recycled materials?

And,

  • Can we design radically new processes for producing steel from iron-ore?

To support answering these, and other questions, our research focuses on understanding the fundamental reactions that occur during the hydrogen reduction process, recycling processes, and steel treatment processes - and, how these reactions affect the properties of steels. We will also investigate alternative materials and processes. 

Our research towards fossil-free steel

Green Steel for a fossil-fre future has objectives to shape advanced theory, models and practical knowledge related to the design and production of new advanced, materials engineered, steel products - where production avoids the use of fossil fuels, avoids wastes and uses sustainably sourced and recycled materials inputs. The intent is to support the iron and steel industry in the Norrbotten region, and Sweden generally, to accelerate the industry’s transition to climate-neutral production with reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

The research is organised into the following work packages.

  1. Influence of hydrogen on properties of fossil-free steels
  2. Alloy design for fossil-free steels
  3. Control of the hydrogen content in fossil-free steels
  4. Optimized scrap utilization
  5. Influence of temperature gradients and microstructure on hot-rolled sheet and strip

Funded by the EU's Just Transition Fund and Tillväxtverket

Green Steel for a Fossil-free future is funded by the EU’s Just Transition Fund and Tillväxtverkt (the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth) with co-financing from KTH and LTU. The Just Transition Fund addresses regions at risk from structural changes that occur in industries as their business make changes to reduce climate impacts.

This particular programme funding aims to supporting the Norrbotten region in the transition to a hydrogen based economy. Therefore, the "Green Steel for a Fossil Free Future" programme has industrial stakeholders such as SSAB and LKAB (due to their activities in the region) and Jernkontoret (the Swedish iron and steel producers' association) due to the need to disseminate the new knowledge more broadly. 

The programme value is 41 MSEK over 4 years. 

Organisation

Page responsible:Denise McCluskey
Belongs to: Green Steel for a fossil-free future
Last changed: Oct 25, 2023