In order to permanently reduce CO2 emissions, ArcelorMittal has developed a low-emissions technology strategy, which targets not only the use of alternative feedstocks and the conversion of CO2 emissions, but also the direct avoidance of carbon (Carbon Direct Avoidance, or CDA).
This year, the Group intends to launch a new project in the ArcelorMittal plant in Hamburg to use hydrogen on an industrial scale for the direct reduction of iron ore in the steel production process for the first time. A pilot plant is to be built in the coming years.
Already today, the Hamburg plant has one of the most efficient production processes of the ArcelorMittal Group due to the use of natural gas in a direct reduction plant (DRI). The aim of the new hydrogen-based process is to be able to produce steel with the lowest CO2 emissions. The project costs amount to around 65 million euros.
In addition, a cooperation agreement with the University of Freiberg is planned in order to test the procedure in the coming years at the Hamburg plant premises. The hydrogen-based reduction of iron ore will initially take place on a demonstration scale with an annual production of 100,000 tonnes.
"Our Hamburg site offers optimum conditions for this innovative project: an electric arc furnace with DRI system and iron ore pellets stockyard as well as decades of know-how in this area. The use of hydrogen as a reducing agent shall now be tested in a new shaft furnace," comments Frank Schulz, CEO of ArcelorMittal Germany.
In the process, the separation of H2 with a purity of more than 95 percent from the top gas of the existing plant should be achieved by so-called pressure swing adsorption. The process is first tested with grey hydrogen (generated at gas separation) to allow for economical operation. In the future, the plant should also be able to run on green hydrogen (generated from renewable sources) when it is available in sufficient quantities.
With the Hamburg hydrogen project, ArcelorMittal is advancing pioneering technology for direct CO2 avoidance as one of a number of potential pathways for low-emissions steelmaking. The Group is already investing more than 250 million euros in various carbon emissions reduction technologies, for example in Ghent where waste carbon gases will be used for the production of alternative fuels or in chemical products. Likewise, methods are tested in which biocoal from waste wood is used instead of coking coal as a reducing agent in the blast furnace.
Meanwhile, ArcelorMittal has commissioned technology provider Midrex Technologies to design a demonstration plant at its Hamburg site. Both companies have now signed a Framework Collaboration Agreement (FCA) to cooperate on several projects, ranging from research and development to the implementation of new technologies.
The FCA will be governed by a number of Project Development Agreements, incorporating the expertise of Midrex and ArcelorMittal. The first Project Development Agreement is to demonstrate in Hamburg the large-scale production and use of Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) made with 100% hydrogen as the reductant.
In the coming years, the demonstration plant will produce about 100,000 tons of direct reduced iron per year - initially with grey hydrogen sourced from natural gas. Conversion to green hydrogen from renewable energy sources will take place once available in sufficient quantities and at an economical cost. Energy for hydrogen production could come from wind farms off the coast of Northern Germany. The plant will be the world’s first direct reduction plant on an industrial scale, powered by hydrogen.
"We are working with a world class provider, Midrex Technologies, to learn how you can produce virgin iron for steelmaking at a large scale by only using hydrogen. This project combined with our ongoing projects on the use of non-fossil carbon and on carbon capture and use is key to become carbon neutral in Europe in 2050. Large scale demonstrations are critical to show our ambition. However it will depend on the political conditions, how fast transformation will take place", comments Carl de Maré, Vice President at ArcelorMittal and responsible for technology strategy.
ArcelorMittal Hamburg already produces steel using DRI technology. During the process, iron oxide pellets are reduced to metallic iron, the raw material for high quality steel, by extracting oxygen using natural gas. "Our site is the most energy-efficient production plant at ArcelorMittal", says Dr Uwe Braun, CEO at ArcelorMittal Hamburg, adding that the existing Midrex plant in Hamburg is also the plant with the lowest CO2-emissions for high quality steel production in Europe.
"With the new, hydrogen-based DRI plant we are now planning, we will raise steel production to a completely new level, as part of our Europe-wide ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050", Dr Braun concludes. "This commercial scale project will show the path for hydrogen based iron and steel making", commented Stephen C. Montague, President & CEO of Midrex Technologies Inc. "We are excited to work with ArcelorMittal as pioneers for using renewable energy in our industry."
With a production volume of 8 million tonnes crude steel, ArcelorMittal is among the largest steel producers in Germany. Its customers come from the automotive and construction industry, as well as from the packaging and household appliances sector.
The group runs four large production sites in the country. These are two fully integrated flat carbon sites in Bremen and Eisenhüttenstadt as well as two long carbon sites in Hamburg and Duisburg. Moreover the group has seven steel service centers and 16 distribution centers in the federal republic.
ArcelorMittal employs more than 9,000 people in Germany. Worldwide, ArcelorMittal is a leading steel and mining company, with a presence in 60 countries and an industrial footprint in 18 countries.