Climate-neutral in the future – transformation of steel production

future of production | Sustainability and climate protection | For thyssenkrupp the goal is clear: By 2050 our steel production is to become carbon neutral. With our climate strategy we are stepping up our existing activities to reduce emissions, stand for social responsibility and are committed to the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015.

The steel industry is facing fierce global competition. For many years, the industry has been determined by competitive, adjustment and modernization pressure. Added to this are increased requirements for CO2 reduction in steel production. This means that we not only want to modernize our facilities but also make our contribution to climate protection and invest in green steel production. A right and necessary step with which thyssenkrupp Steel is also meeting its social responsibility.

Transformation of steel production

So far thyssenkrupp’s CO2 emissions amount to 23 million tons. Most of this is produced in the steel business. To reduce these emissions, thyssenkrupp has set itself clear and binding climate targets: The company aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.

To achieve climate-neutral steel production, a fundamental technological change is required. To achieve this, thyssenkrupp Steel is pursuing the goal of avoiding the generation of CO2 from the outset (Carbon Direct Avoidance, CDA). The CO2 still produced is to be used and converted into valuable products. (Carbon Capture and Usage, CCU).

Hydrogen in the blast furnace

Normally carbon is used as a reducing agent in blast furnaces to melt the iron-bearing charge to molten pig iron. in the future, thyssenkrupp Steel will inject hydrogen into the blast furnace instead of carbon. This is the first step toward avoiding CO2 emissions. Because where CO2 is currently produced, hydrogen will only produce climate-friendly water vapor.

The world’s first trial to supply hydrogen was carried out at the Duisburg-Hamborn site on November 11, 2019 using one of the 28 blow molds on blast furnace 9. The test series has been running ever since.

A premiere at the plant in Duisburg in November 2019

Step by step to the climate-neutral blast furnace

Once the tests on blast furnace 9 have been successfully completed, the next step is to run all 28 blowing moulds of the blast furnace on hydrogen by the end of 2021. The use of hydrogen instead of carbon could theoretically save around 20 percent of the CO2 that would otherwise be produced.

A fundamental change in steel production is necessary

However, converting the blast furnace to hydrogen is only the first step. In the long term, it is important that a fundamental conversion of steel production takes place. A decisive factor in this is the construction of direct reduction (DR) plants. We want to operate these plants with green hydrogen in the long term. Instead of liquid pig iron, they produce a solid sponge iron. This sponge is melted down and further processed in the steelworks. The first DR plant is planned for the middle of the 2020s.

In this way thyssenkrupp Steel aims to make its plant park gradually climate-neutral.

Innovative technologies make steel production more sustainable

In addition to this, i.e. to avoid CO2 in steel production, we use the Carbon2Chem project and convert CO2 already produced into valuable products. Specifically, the steelmaking gases produced during steel production, which contain large amounts of CO2, among other things, are converted into valuable chemical raw materials. These can then be used to manufacture many useful products such as fuel, fertilizer or plastics.

At its Carbon2Chem pilot plant in Duisburg, thyssenkrupp converts CO2 and other waste gases from steel production into valuable products.

Work on the technology has been underway at the Carbon2Chem pilot plant in Duisburg since September 2018. This is the first time in the world that ammonia and methanol have been produced from metallurgical gases. The industrial pilot phase, in which the metallurgical gases from the neighboring steelworks are used to produce methanol, is scheduled to begin as early as 2020. This chemical raw material can then be used, for example, to produce fertilizers for agriculture. What is particularly interesting about this project is that the plant can be used not only in the steel industry but also by other industries. They too can thus reduce their CO2 emissions and thus contribute to climate protection.

Setting the course for the future

In order to achieve the transformation to green steel production, investment aid, market introduction measures for green steel products and an intelligent regulatory environment are needed in addition to entrepreneurial commitment. This is the only way to create sustainable structures for climate-neutral production in the steel industry and thus contribute to a green and climate-friendly economy in the long term.

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