Fossil-free steelmaking came a step closer for Swedish steelmaker SSAB yesterday following the start-up of HYBRIT’s ‘globally unique’ pilot plant for the production of fossil-free sponge iron.

Key executives from the three companies involved in the project – SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall – along with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment and Climate Isabella Lövin, were in attendance at what was described as a ‘historic opportunity’ to ‘hasten the climate transition’.

Swedish Prime Minister Löfven commented: “Right now we have a historic opportunity to do things that provide jobs here and now – but also hasten the climate transition that everyone realises is necessary. Today, you are laying the foundations that will enable the Swedish steel industry to be entirely fossil- and carbon dioxide- free in 20 years. Together we can rebuild Sweden as the world’s first fossil-free welfare nation.”

Deputy Prime Minister Lövin said the inauguration showed that the industrial transition was taking place now, ‘as we speak’ and that the fossil-free society is within reach. “This unique project has generated a lot of international attention for Sweden. Through the Leadership Group for Industry Transition, which the UN has asked Sweden to lead, this has the opportunity to reverberate around the world,” she said.

Martin Lindqvist, president and CEO of SSAB, said he was ‘incredibly proud’ that HYBRIT’s ‘globally unique pilot plant’ has been completed. “It is a milestone in the transition to fossil-free steel. We aim to be the first to market, in as early as 2026, with fossil-free steel. HYBRIT technology will enable us to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions in steelmaking and at the same time help our own customers to reduce their climate footprint. We have the chance to revolutionise the entire steel industry and show that net-zero emissions is possible. We must seize this chance,” he commented.

Hybrit Development is a jointly owned company formed by three Swedish industrial companies: steel manufacturer SSAB, mining company LKAB and energy provider Vattenfall. The purpose of the collaboration is to develop the world's first fossil-free ore-based steelmaking process. The by-product obtained by using fossil-free electricity and hydrogen instead of coke and coal in steel production is water instead of carbon dioxide. It is claimed that the project has the potential to reduce Sweden's total carbon dioxide emissions by 10%. The HYBRIT project has been granted financial support from the Swedish Energy Agency.