Future of steel production starts now
First direct reduction plant in Duisburg for climate-neutral steel
thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG
47166 Duisburg, Germany
A carbon-neutral society is unimaginable without steel. Many products and industries are reliant on steel to achieve technical progress and reduce their carbon footprint. To secure its future in a carbon-neutral society, the way it is produced will be revolutionized over the next three decades. With tkH2Steel®– our hydrogen-based climate strategy – we have set out on the road at thyssenkrupp Steel. In addition to reducing CO2 emissions, one of our top priorities is: not to compromise on quality and steel grades.
tkH2Steel®: With hydrogen toward carbon-neutral steel
The goal is clear: Steel production at thyssenkrupp is planned to be carbon-neutral by 2045. With our climate strategy, we are stepping up our previous activities to reduce emissions, accepting our social responsibility and showing our commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The new SBTi Net Zero Standard, along which we will have our targets verified, requires at least 90% reduction of our own emissions (Scope 1), from energy purchases (Scope 2) and in the supply chain (Scope 3) by 2050. As an initial target for 2030, thyssenkrupp Steel is aiming to reduce emissions from its own production and processes and from the purchase of energy by more than 30 percent versus the base year 2018.
thyssenkrupp Steel is pursuing an technology-open approach and focusing on two parallel, equally important routes: The decisive step is the avoidance of CO2 through the use of hydrogen ("Carbon Direct Avoidance", CDA). This is complemented by the use of CO2 produced in steelmaking ("Carbon Capture and Usage", CCU). thyssenkrupp is taking a step-by-step approach. In this way, the company is ensuring that steel production is also possible in a carbon-neutral society – and thus ensuring the future viability of industry and jobs.
thyssenkrupp Steel is continuously developing both paths. The company is always seeking even more efficient solutions or possibilities to accelerate the transformation, for instance through new technological findings. In the hydrogen path, thyssenkrupp Steel also always takes into account the availability of hydrogen, as the hydrogen economy is still in its infancy.
In the long term thyssenkrupp Steel alone will need around 720,000 metric tons of the climate-friendly gas per year – and the company would need the renewable electricity generated by 3,800 wind turbines for this. So one of the things the company is focusing on is the rapid establishment of a supply infrastructure for green hydrogen. Various national and international projects and collaborations are currently underway to this end.
To achieve these goals, we are going to need support from policy makers. Only with the right framework, the transformation of the industry will be a success. High-quality steel is a driver of innovation and an essential material for numerous sectors – including those that are relevant for a successful turnaround in climate policy: e.g. electric mobility or wind energy. We want to keep it that way in the future. That's why the motto is: get rid of CO2, but retain established production processes and value chains as far as possible.
Material of the future: carbon-neutral steel
High-quality steel is a driver of innovation and an essential material for numerous sectors – including those that are relevant for a successful turnaround in climate policy: e.g. electric mobility or wind energy. We want to keep it that way in the future. That's why the motto is: get rid of CO2, but retain established production processes and value chains as far as possible.
The launch of the first product with reduced CO2 intensity represents another important milestone in the transformation to carbon neutrality. Under the umbrella brand bluemint® Steel, thyssenkrupp Steel has developed bluemint® pure – a product based on real CO2 savings during production, with a 70 percent reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional steel. The method of CO2 savings has been tested by the international certification society DNV and confirmed. This approach is also in accordance with the standards of the internationally recognized Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The Wuppertal Institute has also validated the balance-sheet approach as an important part of a comprehensive decarbonization strategy for steel production.
TÜV SÜD has certified the second CO2-reduced product, bluemint® recycled. In this process, a high-quality scrap recycling product is used in the blast furnace, and the amount of coal used in the blast furnace is reduced. In this way, the CO2 intensity per metric ton produced can be reduced from 2.1 to 0.75 metric tons.
More information about the new bluemint® Steel product family can be found here.
As part of a project funded by the German government, thyssenkrupp Steel has been treating process gases from steel production and processing them into basic products for the chemical industry since 2018. In this way synthesis gas, which until now has been obtained from fossil resources such as oil or natural gas, can be saved.
With the new process, thyssenkrupp Steel has produced ammonia and methanol from steel mill gases – the first time this has happened anywhere in the world. The basic chemicals are further processed in the chemical value chain into fertilizers, plastics or fuels, for example.
Avoiding CO2: hydrogen instead of coal
To produce in a carbon-neutral way, a fundamental change in steel production is necessary. The development of direct reduction plants (DR plants) represents a key change.
At the beginning of March thyssenkrupp Steel has awarded a contract worth billions of euros to SMS group for a direct reduction plant. That starts one of the world's largest industrial decarbonization projects with an order volume for SMS alone of over 1.8 billion euros.
thyssenkrupp Steel places an order with SMS for the engineering, delivery and construction of a hydrogen-powered direct reduction plant, two innovative melters, and the associated auxiliary units at the Duisburg location.
It is a groundbreaking concept with a capacity of 2.5 million metric tons of directly reduced iron. The startup is planned for the end of 2026. The annual saving are over 3.5 million metric tons of CO2.
In contrast to the blast furnace, DR plants do not produce hot metal, but solid sponge iron ("Direct Reduced Iron", DRI). It must be melted down into a hot metal-like product so that it can be further processed into high-quality steel. A complete new unit was therefore developed in order to optimize the hot metal system. It is an electrical power-operated melter, which is combined with the DR plant. Direct reduction plants with a melter – just like a blast furnace – continuously produce a liquid product comparable to conventionally produced hot metal.
As a result, the new plants can be seamlessly integrated into the existing metallurgical plant. The great advantage is that the existing and proven processes in the Duisburg-based BOF meltshops can be maintained. The liquid product is processed into the proven steel grades there.
Thus, the Duisburg steelworks is continuing to boil steel like in the past – but with hydrogen and green power instead of coal. The feasibility, scalability and innovativeness of this concept were also confirmed by scientists from RWTH Aachen University in a study commissioned by thyssenkrupp Steel at the beginning of 2021.
The industry is also breaking new ground with the use of hydrogen in the direct reduction process. This is because up to now, the DR plants already used in steel production have been operated with natural gas. thyssenkrupp Steel has therefore initiated a test series at its own DR test facility, the results of which are eagerly awaited far beyond the confines of Duisburg. A key issue in the experimental application is how the hydrogen must be injected into the unit to react effectively with the oxygen in the iron ore.
Using CO2: Project Carbon2Chem
The second technological method thyssenkrupp Steel is pursuing in its goal to become carbon-neutral by 2045 is the Carbon2Chem® project.
On a test site close to the iron and steel plant, the company recycles process gases generated during steel production and processes them further. The German government has funded the first phase of the project since 2016 to the tune of more than €60 million. The second phase, which is also being funded by the German government with a further €75 million, has been running since 2020.
Using both of these methods – Carbon2Chem® and injecting hydrogen as a reducing agent – in parallel will allow thyssenkrupp to considerably reduce the emissions of its existing blast furnace route in future. Carbon2Chem® technology can also be employed in other industries. The second project phase will include testing its suitability for use in cement manufacture or waste incineration plants.
More details and background on the Carbon2Chem® funding project.
Climate transformation news
thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG
Head of Public & Media Relations
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