Global steelmaker ArcelorMittal, carbon recycling company Lanzatech and leading steel production technology provider Primetals have announced that they have entered into a letter of intent to construct Europe’s first ever commercial-scale production facility to create bioethanol from waste gases produced during the steelmaking process.

The EUR87 million project will be located at ArcelorMittal’s steel plant in Ghent, Belgium and will commence later this year. Bioethanol production is expected mid-2017.

There will be two construction phases: phase one providing an initial capacity of 16kt of ethanol per annum by mid-2017; and phase two stepping it up to 47kt by 2018.

ArcelorMittal has signed a long-term partnership agreement with Lanzatech and this will mean further plants across the steelmaker’s global estate. Taken to its full potential in Europe alone, the project could lead to the production of 500kt of bioethanol per annum.

According to a press announcement made by ArcelorMittal, bioethanol can cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 80% compared with conventional fossil fuels. “It will predominantly be used in gasoline blending,” claims the world’s largest steelmaker, but can be further processed into other products ‘such as drop in jet fuel’.

The announced project will be able to produce 47kt of ethanol per annum, which is enough to fuel half a million cars with ethanol-blended gasoline. It will, claims ArcelorMittal, ‘demonstrate the added value of recycling waste streams, not only by reducing emissions at source – reducing ArcelorMittal’s direct carbon footprint – but by keeping fossil fuels in the ground through the production of commodity chemicals and fuels that would otherwise be made from oil’.

ArcelorMittal says that 50% of the carbon used in the chemistry of steelmaking leaves the process as carbon monoxide. “This waste gas stream is either flared or used to heat and power the steel mill,” explains the company, adding that, either way carbon monoxide is combusted and the resulting CO2 is emitted.

Using the Lanzatech process, however, recycles the waste gases and ferments them with a proprietary microbe to produce bioethanol, every tonne of which displaces 5.2 barrels of gasoline as well as reducing ArcelorMittal’s CO2 emissions by 2.3 tonnes.

In fact, Lanzatech’s carbon recycling technology was recently awarded an Environmental Protection Agency Presidential Green Chemistry Award in the USA.

Carl De Maré, president, innovation, at ArcelorMittal, said the partnership was an example of how the steelmaker is looking at all potential opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions and support a transition to a low carbon economy. “It is an example of why our carbon footprint should be viewed on a life cycle analysis basis, given steel is 100% recyclable and the material impact we make on reducing the carbon footprint of our customers through product innovation,” De Maré said.