With the world’s industries continual transitions toward environmental protection; steelmaking nations across the globe are adapting new techniques and technologies to improve the quality and processes of iron and steelmaking, with many developed countries now conducting extensive research and experiments to extract iron from iron ore through the use of Hydrogen.
The use of hydrogen in steel production has been termed as “HYBRIT”, short for Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology.
The traditional method of steelmaking through the blast furnace requires the processing of 300 kilograms of coke and 200 kilogram of coal to produce a single ton of pig iron, the downside of this traditional method are the Carbon emissions which have plagued the environment in the past century.
On the other hand, when Hydrogen is introduced to the BOF process, the resultant emissions are water vapors.
The Paris Agreement implies that the steel sectors will reach zero emissions by 2060-2080), while the European Union seeks to achieve an 80-95%reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 compared to 1990(European Commission, 2011).
Last year, ThyssenKrupp Steel (Duisburg) were first to conduct a series of tests into the use of Hydrogen in a working blast furnace.
Since then more EU steel manufactures such as Tata, SSAB and Arcelor-Mittal have been witnessed moving towards and exploring the Hydrogen processing method.
Recently the, International Energy Agency (IEA) plans to publish its modern technology road map for the steel industry, directing countries on how to control Carbon emissions and raise steel production outputs at the same time.
At present, one of the key barriers to overcome, is the volume of hydrogen needed to support a massive upscaling for use by the steel industry, however, the amount that will be consumed is tremendous.
A steel mill converted from coal to hydrogen that produces 5 million tons of steel will require more than 44 tons an hour of hydrogen, which would present itself as a major challenge for countries like China, which are using cost effective measures for producing iron and steel.
To overcome the issue, the Asian Renewable Energy Hub plans to generate up to 15,000 megawatts of renewable energy from thousands of wind turbines and solar panels in Western Australia.
This project could generate 1.5 million tons of hydrogen each year, enough to produce 25 million tons of direct-reduced iron annually.