A Swedish company figured out how to decarbonize steel

From a joint press release by SSAD, and the Swedish state-owned mining firm LKAB and utility Vattenfall:

SSAB has now produced the world's first fossil-free steel and delivered it to a customer. The trial delivery is an important step on the way to a completely fossil-free value chain for iron- and steelmaking and a milestone in the HYBRIT partnership between SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall.

In July, SSAB Oxelösund rolled the first steel produced using HYBRIT technology, i.e., reduced by 100% fossil-free hydrogen instead of coal and coke, with good results. The steel is now being delivered to the first customer, the Volvo Group.

"The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it represents proof that it's possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry. We hope that this will inspire others to also want to speed up the green transition," says Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB.

According to The Guardian, the coal used in typical steel production accounts for about 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions; the company SSAB in particular is responsible for 10% of the CO2 output in Sweden, and 7% in Finland. A report from the Brookings Institute from June 2021 specifically noted the difficulty of removing carbon emissions from the steel production process:

Steelmaking uses coal both as a source of heat and as part of the chemical process of converting iron ore to elemental iron. Both of these uses produce carbon dioxide. Eliminating CO₂ emissions from steelmaking requires a change in process. Using hydrogen as the heat source and the chemical reducing agent can eliminate CO₂ emissions, or carbon capture can remove them. Steel can also be recycled without CO₂ emissions, but demand for steel is too large to be met with recycled steel alone.


Two important technical factors make these industries difficult to decarbonize. First, many processes need a level of heat that is difficult to achieve without combustion. One third of industrial energy demand is for high-temperature heat, and there are few alternatives today to the direct use of fossil fuels.

Second, each of these industries includes processes that produce CO2 as part of a chemical reaction, rather than as a combustion product. For these processes, eliminating CO2 emissions requires either finding another chemical process that does not produceCO2 or capturing the CO2 produced and either using or storing it, a method known as CCUS. These process emissions constitute one quarter of emissions from the industrial sector, and much greater in certain industries.

So the news that SSAB believes they can shift to an entirely fossil fuel-free production process by 2026 is a positive shift, especially coming on the heels of that bleak IPCC report.

Behold, Carbon-Free Steel Now Exists [Dharna Noor / Gizmodo]

'Green steel': Swedish company ships first batch made without using coal [Reuters]

The challenge of decarbonizing heavy industry [Samantha Gross / Brookings Institute]

Image: Public Domain via Pixabay