With initiatives like Hybrit already capturing the imagination of industry professionals at a huge industrial trade fair in Hannover, Germany, ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker is now stepping up to the plate with the development of a EUR65 million 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).

Like (or similar to) the Swedish Hybrit initiative, the ArcelorMittal plan is to launch a new project at its steel plant in Hamburg, Germany, to use hydrogen on an industrial scale for the direct reduction of iron ore in the steel production process. A pilot plant is to be built in the coming years, says the company.

According to ArcelorMittal, its Hamburg plant already offers 'one of the most efficient production processes of the ArcelorMittal Group'. This is 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.

A co-operation agreement with the University of Freiberg is planned to test the procedure in the coming years at the Hamburg plant. The hydrogen-based reduction of iron ore will initially take place on a demonstration scale with an annual production of 100kt.

"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," said Frank Schulz, CEO of ArcelorMittal Germany.

In the process, the separation of H2 with a purity of more than 95% 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 claims it is advancing pioneering technology for direct CO2 avoidance as one of several potential pathways for low-emissions steelmaking. The Group is already investing more than EUR250 million 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.

ArcelorMittal says it is committed to climate protection. With its multi-technology approach, it wants to make an active contribution to achieving the ambitious climate and energy policy goals of the Paris agreement and to identify which technologies are technically and economically feasible to reduce, capture or avoid CO2 emissions.