Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven symbolically broke ground yesterday (Wednesday 20 June) on the world’s first pilot plant for creating fossil-free steel.

HYBRIT is claimed to have the potential to reduce Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions by 10% and Finland’s by 7%, according to Swedish steelmaker SSAB. It is a joint venture company owned by steelmaker SSAB, minerals and mining business LKAB and power company Vattenfall, all of whom are Swedish. It was initiated in spring 2016 and the goal is to have an industrial process in place by 2035.

The Swedish Energy Board (SEB) has awarded financial support to the project on three occasions: for two feasibility studies and one research project. It was recently announced that the SEB will contribute SEK528 million to the pilot plant, in which the three owning companies (SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall) will collectively invest an additional SEK830 million.

The pilot plant is expected to be ready by 2020 and is now entering its second phase, with possibilities of full-scale testing and development of the technique to produce steel using hydrogen instead of coal and coke. “This could lead to a historical shift in production technique, leading to water as a by-product instead of carbon dioxide emissions,” said SSAB.

“Fossil-free steel production starts in the mine. We are working intensely with how the future pelletising plant should be constructed to find an energy efficient production process. The challenge for LKAB in HYBRIT, and our contribution, is to develop carbon dioxide free direct reduction pellets. This is where the pilot plant will play a crucial part, before we can take it to an industrial scale,” said Jan Moström, president and CEO at LKAB.

Vattenfall’s president and CEO Magnus Hall said he wants it to be possible to live fossil-free within a generation. “Helping steel production to change is one of the most important contributions we can give,” he said.

SSAB’s president and CEO Martin Lindqvist commented: “By starting to build the pilot plant, where we’ll develop and scale up the technology for fossil-free steel production, we’re taking an important step forwards towards SSAB’s goal of being fossil-free by 2045.”