A leap towards fossil-free production of iron ore pellets

Source: press release, 1 April 2019

HYBRIT – Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology
HYBRIT – Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (photo: HYBRIT)

Construction will soon begin on a world-unique test facility which is a key component of HYBRIT, a joint initiative of LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall. In the plant, fossil fuels will be replaced with biofuel to achieve fossil-free production of iron ore pellets. The aim of the HYBRIT initiative, which is supported by the Swedish Energy Agency, is to develop a process for fossil-free steelmaking by 2035.

In 2016 LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT in an effort to revolutionise iron and steel production. The aim is to develop the world’s first fossil-free steelmaking process, in which carbon dioxide emissions are virtually eliminated, by 2035. In 2018 the Swedish Energy Agency announced that it would contribute funding amounting to more than 500 million kronor towards the pilot-scale development of an industrial process, with three owners, LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall, each contributing a third of the outstanding capital for the project.

Fossil-free steel production starts at the mine and LKAB is working hard to determine the design of the next generation of pelletising plants. As part of the HYBRIT initiative a biofuel-based plant is to be built at LKAB’s Malmberget site. This project will cost in the region of 80 million kronor. Testing a bio-oil system is part of the pilot phase and the objective is to convert one of LKAB’s pelletising plants from fossil fuel to 100% renewable fuel. This means that fossil-generated carbon dioxide emissions from the Malmberget operation will be reduced by up to 40% during the test period, which corresponds to about 60,000 tonnes per year.

“Within HYBRIT, LKAB is examining options for replacing the heating technologies used in the pellet process, which are the heart of our processing plants. In parallel, trials will be conducted in an experimental facility in Luleå using an alternative heating technology. Trials will determine whether new biofuels and plasma burners will work in the unique setting of a pellet plant. Ultimately, this will make LKAB’s iron ore pellets completely carbon-dioxide-free,” says Jan Moström, LKAB’s President and CEO.

The iron and steel industry is one of the sectors whose processes emit the most carbon dioxide in Sweden. A growing population in combination with greater urbanisation means that demand for steel will continue to grow until 2050. If the HYBRIT initiative succeeds, Sweden’s carbon dioxide emissions will decrease by 10%.

“Together with our owners, we hope to be able to solve the problem of emissions in the iron and steel industry. The initiative is decisive for Sweden’s ability to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and nationally, and it is our contribution to battling climate change. Fossil-free production of iron ore pellets is an important step towards reaching these goals,” says Mårten Görnerup, CEO, Hybrit Development AB.

Following a prestudy conducted in 2016–2017, the first sod was turned in 2018 for a pilot plant for hydrogen-based reduction of iron ore in Luleå. This plant, which is expected to be completed in 2020, will be used to test processes downstream from the pelletising plant. The investment in a pilot-plant for bio-oil in Malmberget, which is an important milestone for HYBRIT and the development of fossil-free pellet production, is expected to be completed by 2020. The first tests will be conducted up to 2021.

“Vattenfall is looking forward to further collaboration. Our partnership with SSAB and LKAB is playing a very important role in the electrification of the industry and the development of fossil-free hydrogen to enable a fossil-free life within a generation,” comments Magnus Hall, President and CEO, Vattenfall.

“We are on our way to a revolutionary technical advancement showing the world that it is possible to produce steel without producing carbon dioxide emissions,” says Martin Lindqvist, CEO and President of SSAB. “Work is proceeding according to schedule and I am confident that we will succeed. As a first step toward creating a fossil-free SSAB, we have decided to switch to an electric arc furnace in Oxelösund. This will entail decommissioning both blast furnaces in around 2025 and will reduce our COemissions in Sweden by around 25%” he adds.