ArcelorMittal, a leading global steelmaker, and John Cockerill, a group leading the development of steel processing facilities and electrolysers, have today announced plans to construct the world’s first industrial-scale low temperature, iron electrolysis plant.

Phase one in the development of the Volteron™ plant, will produce between 40 and 80kt/year of iron plates and is targeted to start production in 2027. According to ArcelorMittal, once the technology has been proven at this scale, the intention is to increase annual capacity to between 300kt and 1Mt/year.

Over the last few years, ArcelorMittal and John Cockerill have been working together on 'an innovative electrochemical process' to transform iron oxide into iron plates. The successfully completed project, formerly known as SIDERWIN, has to date been publicly funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. In addition to ArcelorMittal and John Cockerill, project partners have included EDF, Tecnalia, Quantis, University of Aveiro, National Technical University of Athens, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Dynergie, Recoy, CFD Numerics and Mytilineos. This next phase of the project will be carried forward as an exclusive partnership between ArcelorMittal and John Cockerill.

"“This is a tremendously exciting development and opportunity for our company. We have been working on direct electrolysis technology for some time given the potential it holds to decarbonise steelmaking."

Brad Davey, EVP and head of corporate business optimisation, ArcelorMittal.

Volteron™ is described as a carbon-free, cold direct electrolysis process that extracts iron from iron ore using electricity. On a pilot scale plant, the process has proved to be highly efficient using standard iron ore. The iron plates created during the electrolysis process are then processed into steel in an electric arc furnace.

According to Brad Davey, EVP and head of corporate business optimisation at ArcelorMittal, This is a tremendously exciting development and opportunity for our company. We have been working on direct electrolysis technology for some time given the potential it holds to decarbonise steelmaking. Having now proven our energy efficient, low temperature process at a pilot level, the natural next step for us is to progress to an industrial plant. We intend to achieve this target within four years and be the first in the world to produce steel at scale via low temperature electrolysis.

“It is a significant moment for ArcelorMittal, and for the global steel industry. Direct electrolysis is a disruptive, breakthrough technology. Although the technology needs to mature, it could revolutionise how steel is made, removing carbon entirely from steelmaking. We intend to be pioneers in that process.”

“As a bicentennial technology leader in steelmaking engineering and current world leader for electrolysis dedicated to hydrogen production, we are extremely proud to develop together with ArcelorMittal a technology that can be a significant contribution to tackling global warming."

Sébastien Roussel, president of John Cockerill Industry.

Sébastien Roussel, president of John Cockerill Industry, commented: “As a bicentennial technology leader in steelmaking engineering and current world leader for electrolysis dedicated to hydrogen production, we are extremely proud to develop together with ArcelorMittal a technology that can be a significant contribution to tackling global warming."

Roussel said that John Cockerill was convinced that Volteron™ is the most energy efficient process to produce steel without emitting CO2 and that it will soon become a real game changer for the steelmaking industry.

Direct electrolysis is one of three decarbonisation technology pathways ArcelorMittal is working on to make net zero steelmaking a reality. The other two are Smart Carbon and Innovative-DRI. The former involves modifying the blast furnace steelmaking route and harnessing clean energy sources including bioenergy and carbon capture and storage, while the latter involves using hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels to make direct reduced iron, a metallic feedstock for steelmaking in an electric arc furnace.