A new method of steelmaking that could reduce fossil CO2 emissions by as much as 30% is being investigated by Swerea MEFOS and financed – to the tune of SEK13 million – by the Swedish steelmaker SSAB.

A research project is currently underway in which the use of biocoal is being tested in blast furnace-based steel manufacturing.

Both SSAB and Swerea MEFOS acknowledge that the steel industry is facing major challenges in its repositioning to a more sustainable society. “SSAB’s blast furnaces are among the most carbon dioxide efficient in the world while, at the same time, the company accounts for approximately 10% of Sweden’s emissions of carbon dioxide,” said a joint press release from the two major players in the research project. The possibilities are already being studied in Oxelösund for fossil-free manufacturing by 2026.

Era Kapilashrami, head of metallurgy at SSAB in Oxelösund, Sweden, said that the biocoal project was an excellent initiative to further reduce CO2 levels using today’s blast furnace technology. “If the tests are successful, some of the current coal and coke can be replaced by biocoal without any major investments, resulting in a greater degree of fossil-free manufacturing”, said Kapilashrami.

According to Swerea MEFOS, the project will showcase the possibilities for dealing with pre-treated biomass containing renewable energy, for example residual products from forestry operations. Replacing parts of today’s black coal with biocoal can lead to reduced fossil CO2 emissions. There have been promising results in small blast furnaces injected with biocoal, but this has never been tested on a full industrial scale.

The project starts next month (September) and the preparation and implementation of operational testing is planned for 2018/2019.