Hydrogen’s Role in Decarbonizing the Steelmaking Industry: Insights from the ‘Hydrogen and Decarbonization of Steel Production in Canada’ Report
November 10, 2023
The World Steel Association (worldsteel)) reports that in 2020, 1,860 million tonnes (Mt) of steel were produced, and total direct emissions from the sector were of the order of 2.6 billion tonnes, representing between 7% and 9% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
In the sector and Canada’s broader efforts to combat climate change, the Canadian steel industry has committed to being net zero by 2050. For example, ArcelorMittal Dofasco is working on an immediate target of a 25% reduction of its worldwide CO2 emissions by 2030, and Ontario’s Algoma Steel Inc. is using the route of recycled scraps to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Routes for Steel Production
In the steel industry, there are two main types of steelmaking methods. Integrated is a traditional steelmaking process that includes sintering, coke-making, blast furnace
ironmaking and oxygen furnace (BOF) steelmaking. In contrast, Mini Mill uses electric arc furnaces (EAF), steel scraps and Direct reduction ironmaking (DRI).
Both routes have other processes, including ladle refining, casting and rolling, but our main concern is to find methods to reduce CO2 emissions and integrate hydrogen as an alternative.
Since the integrated route uses coal for cokemaking and blast furnace ironmaking, they would involve significant fossil fuel use as their primary source of energy (around 75% of energy from coal!). Therefore, Mini Mill is a preferred route in this generation.
Hydrogen use in Mini Mill
We must discuss the processes to understand the Mini Mill route for the steel industry.
DRI is the process in which iron ore pellets are converted into iron through reduction. Oxygen from iron ore pellets is removed in a solid state using carbon monoxide or
hydrogen. Since the by-product of carbon monoxide in this reaction is carbon dioxide, which is a GHG, it can simply be substituted. Hydrogen would result in water as the
by-product, significantly reducing carbon emissions.
Below is a simple chemical reaction in which iron ore is converted to iron using H2 (hydrogen) and CO (carbon monoxide).
Electric arc furnace steelmaking (EAF) is the process in which materials such as steel scrap, burnt lime, and coal/carbon are melted and turned into steel. Instead of using combustion heat, hydrogen can be injected into EAF as a fuel replacement.
The integrated route in the steelmaking industry has a 54.5% share of production and a 91.15% share of emissions as of 2018. On the other hand, Mini Mill has an 8.85% share of emissions, which is significantly lower. Therefore, spreading knowledge and understanding the benefits of hydrogen, especially in the steelmaking industry, provides a better output for the future.
The Canadian government has committed to reducing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050. By implementing hydrogen in the steel industry, we are one step closer to achieving
zero-emissions in the future. To understand and learn more about the specifics of decarbonization in the Steel industry, please visit the report: https://canadiansteel.ca/files/resources/2023-08-18_Steel_Hydrogen_Report.pdf