ArcelorMittal claims that new DRI and EAF installations in Gijón will reduce carbon emissions at the company’s Spanish operations by roughly 50%. It is further claimed that the Gijón installation will enable ArcelorMittal Sestao to be the world’s first full-scale zero carbon emissions steel plant.

The steel giant plans to invest around €1 billion in decarbonisation technologies at its Gijón facility with the aim of reducing emissions there by up to 4.8Mt – or by 50% – within the next five years.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Spanish Government has already been signed off underlining the commitment of both the Government of Spain and ArcelorMittal.

The MoU states the commitment of ArcelorMittal and the Government of Spain to transition towards a decarbonised steel industry. ArcelorMittal plans to introduce new manufacturing processes that will, it claims, contribute to a considerable reduction of CO2 emissions. It will also intensify its R&D capabilities in Spain to support the new project and innovation requirements.

“It is widely understood that for the world to achieve net-zero by 2050, faster progress over the next decade is essential. The MoU we have signed today will play an important role in doing exactly that. The construction of the new green hydrogen DRI plant in Gijón will not only enable us to reduce emissions from our Spanish operations by half but will also result in the world’s first full-scale zero carbon-emissions steel plant in Sestao.”

Lakshmi Mittal, CEO, ArcelorMittal Group.

Furthermore, says ArcelorMittal, the Government of Spain intends to promote reforms and investments to support the development and growth of a strong, more competitive and sustainable industrial sector, as well as endeavouring to provide maximum financial support for the project, in line with Spanish legislation and European Union regulations.

According to ArcelorMittal, given the significant cost associated with the transition, in terms of capital and operational expenditure, it is the steelmaker’s expectation that this support will cover at least half of the additional cost to enable its operations to remain competitive as its decarbonisation programme is accelerated.

“The Government of Spain, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, will strongly support a new framework of institutional relations between the Government and the ArcelorMittal Group, because the Government of Spain recognises the importance of the steel industry for the development of the Spanish economy, while also recognising that the industry.”

María Reyes Maroto, Spain’s Minister of Industry

At the heart of the plan is a 2.3Mt green hydrogen direct reduced iron (DRI) unit, complemented by a 1.1Mt hybrid electric arc furnace (EAF). This starts the transition of the Gijón plant away from blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace steelmaking to DRI-EAF production, which has a far lower carbon footprint. The new DRI - which will be the first of its kind in Spain - and EAF will be in production before the end of 2025, claims ArcelorMittal.

Green hydrogen will be used to reduce the iron ore in the DRI, with the EAF powered by renewable electricity. Support from national and regional government is crucial as it will enable ArcelorMittal to access green hydrogen supplied through a consortium of companies that will co-operate in the construction of the infrastructure needed to produce hydrogen in the Iberian Peninsula using solar‑powered electrolysis and to transport it directly through a network of pipelines. The initiative involves the construction of multiple large-scale solar farms, with hydrogen produced in situ and with a corresponding impact in terms of employment.

The Gijón DRI will also feed the company’s Sestao plant, situated approximately 250km from Gijón, where production is already entirely from the electric arc furnace route. This means that by 2025 ArcelorMittal Sestao will produce 1.6Mt of steel and be the world’s first full-scale steel plant to achieve zero carbon emissions.