22 September 2023 / MATERIE PRIME

Sustainable steel: new production technologies with low environmental impact. Hydrogen

Sustainable steel: new production technologies with low environmental impact. Hydrogen

For sustainable steel among the solutions being developed is electrolysis powered by electricity from renewable energy sources to produce green hydrogen that can be used as an energy carrier in the chemical reduction process of iron ore (DRI – Direct Reduced Iron).
For example, the North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley (NAHV) project launched in September 2023 in the EU Horizon Europe program with €25 million in funding. The Friuli-based steel groups Cimolai, Danieli and Pittini are participating as partners, and will develop infrastructure over six years between Croatia, Italy and Slovenia for the production, storage and distribution of 5,000 tons per year of green hydrogen

Could the new frontier of sustainable steel be green hydrogen?

Still no green hydrogen is being used for sustainable steel, records the World Steel Association. But according to the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, which envisions large-scale commercialization from 2030, less than 8 percent of the world’s steel and no more than 14 percent of primary steel will be made using hydrogen from electrolysis in 2050.
Today, blue hydrogen, produced with from fossil fuels and C02 capture and storage systems (CCS), is used for sustainable steel.

Technologies for environmentally friendly steel production with H2: the difficulties

One critical issue is the small size and light weight of the H2 molecule, which is difficult to contain, requires ad hoc distribution infrastructure, and presents safety issues. There are only 5,000 km of hydrogen pipelines in the world today, compared with 3 million km for the natural gas network.
And the costs. For the IEA, innovative sustainable steel solutions (including CCS for blast furnaces, reduction to liquid, DRI to gas) can cost 10 to 50 percent more depending on the regional context. But the economic impact of renewable energy could decrease by 30 percent by 2030 due to declining relative production costs and economies of scale in hydrogen production.

Environmental and economic benefits of sustainable steel

A great deal needs to be done to reduce the carbon footprint of steel production. But steel is sustainable in that it is 100 percent recyclable. Italy, for example, has the European lead in electrosiderurgy from ferrous scrap, with 80 percent of national output compared to the EU average of less than 50 percent.


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