As the climate emergency grows more urgent, it makes sense that we turn our attention to steel and its impact on the planet. After all, the steel industry alone is responsible for a full 7% of global CO2 emissions. The traditional process of making this material releases a lot of CO2.
While we cannot do without steel (we need it for everything from surgical supplies to cars and building materials), the earth needs the steel industry to start making green changes throughout the chain, from producer to consumer.
That’s why SSAB – a Swedish steel company – has produced high-strength steel from raw materials and eliminated CO2 emissions from the process. They started using electricity and fossil-free fuel throughout their production, but decided to take it one step (or gigantic leap) further. Together with partners, they have developed a technology to produce steel with practically no CO2 emissions. They call this technology HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology).
How does it all work?
The solution to steel’s sustainability problem was clear: find a way to make it safe for the planet. The steps to achieve this were not so obvious, but SSAB developed a new process to produce steel that meets these urgent needs.
Together with its partners, SSAB has developed the technology at its HYBRIT plant to produce steel without using any fossil fuels and with practically no CO2 emissions. The only by-product of the process is good old steam.
Traditional steel production produces a lot of CO2, which damages the climate. This is usually the main emission released in steelmaking, but SSAB has revolutionized the process to replace it with water instead.
Now steelmakers like SSAB can produce steel where the by-product is water. They even bottled some of it and call the liquid Pure Waste. Martin Pei, CTO of SSAB, even drank some of it.
While the bottles will not be wildly sold or given away, they mark an exciting time in the industry and demonstrate what can be achieved when steelmakers strategize sustainably.
“A bottle of Pure Waste from the HYBRIT pilot plant is the best proof of what this technology means. We are going from emitting CO2 to emitting water that can be easily recycled. It’s just an incredible opportunity,” adds Pei.
Put simply, it all means that SSAB and its partners have developed breakthrough steelmaking technology with almost zero carbon footprint. By switching the by-product from CO2 to water, they keep fossil fuels underground.
The hybrid technology and the associated Pure Waste paint a positive picture of a society that is finally moving away from fossil fuels. Making SSAB’s steel production process the norm will help fight the climate crisis.
Spilling the Steel Secrets
SSAB’s HYBRIT technology has proven that it is possible to produce steel on a large scale without emitting CO2, which will have less impact on the environment, which is undeniably a major step forward.
To achieve a significant reduction in carbon emissions from steel, every major player in the industry needs to emulate the same process. For this reason, SSAB has applied for a portfolio of patents for the HYBRIT process so that the technology can be shared with the world.
“The world is on the precipice of climate change. We have proven that there is a working technology to produce fossil-free steel. But we cannot change the entire industry ourselves. Others, too, must act quickly to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement alive. I hope our peers in the industry will seize this opportunity to transform our sector from a climate villain to a climate hero,” Pei added.
SSAB wants to support and inspire steelmakers on their journey to zero emissions, drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support customers in building a completely fossil-free chain.
This new process will also help companies meet investor and regulatory demands and avoid the high costs associated with carbon taxes. SSAB also wants to support users to demand greener policies in steel production and reduce their own carbon footprint through electrification of machinery and vehicles and solar heated buildings. Fossil-free fuel is a multifaceted solution.
SSAB will launch fossil-free steel in 2026.
The knowledge sharing platform is public and available here. It is a living platform with much more information to come in the coming months and years. In addition, it is possible to suggest additional content here and to consult SSAB experts.