Climate Warming: Green Steel is Carbon-free While 1 Ton of Usual Steel Demands 2 Tons of CO2

The Swedish Company SSAB has now produced the world’s first fossil-free steel and delivered it to a customer. The trial delivery is an important step on the way to a completely fossil-free value chain for iron- and steelmaking and a milestone in the HYBRIT partnership between SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. In July, SSAB Oxelösund rolled the first steel produced using HYBRIT technology, i.e., reduced by 100% fossil-free hydrogen instead of coal and coke, with good results. The steel is now being delivered to the first customer, the Volvo Group.

The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it represents proof that it’s possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry. We hope that this will inspire others to also want to speed up the green transition,” says Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB.

Industry and especially the steel industry create large emissions but are also an important part of the solution. To drive the transition and become the world’s first fossil-free welfare state, collaboration between business, universities and the public sector is crucial. The work done by SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall within the framework of HYBRIT drives the development of the entire industry and is an international model”, explains Minister of Trade and Industry of Sweden Ibrahim Baylan.

“It’s a crucial milestone and an important step towards creating a completely fossil-free value chain from mine to finished steel. We’ve now shown together that it’s possible, and the journey continues. By industrializing this technology in the future and making the transition to the production of sponge iron on an industrial scale, we will enable the steel industry to make the transition. This is the greatest thing we can do together for the climate,” adds Jan Moström, President and CEO of LKAB.

It’s very pleasing that the HYBRIT partnership is once more taking an important step forward and that SSAB can now produce the first fossil-free steel and deliver to the customer. This shows how partnerships and collaboration can contribute to reducing emissions and building competitiveness for industries. Electrification is contributing to making fossil-free living possible within one generation,” comments Anna Borg, President and CEO of Vattenfall.


The Rise Of The Hydrogen Electric Car

China‘s State Council has announced last month a proposal to promote the development and construction of fueling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell cars. It was a Friday, and too late to trade on the news. On Monday, Chinese punters were ready: In the first few minutes of trading, fuel cell-related stocks gained more than $4 billion in market value, with several hitting their daily limits. The bullishness lasted all week. It’s likely to run for much longer. In less than a decade, the Chinese government has used subsidies and other policies to create the world’s largest market for battery-powered electric vehicles. That market isn’t without problems and limits, so the government is looking to diversify its bets on carbon-free transportation. Fuel cells, a technology that’s being hotly pursued in other East Asian countries (as well as the  U.S.), is their favored means of doing it. Chinese investors, having seen the opportunities created by the support for battery-electric vehicles, are right to get in early.

Fuel cells, like batteries, generate electricity that can drive a motor and vehicle. The similarities mostly stop there. Batteries are large, heavy and require charging by electricity that may or may not be generated from renewable resources. By contrast, fuel cells generate electricity (and, as a byproduct, heat and water) when hydrogen interacts with oxygen. They don’t need charging; instead, they require onboard hydrogen tanks, which are both lighter and capable of holding far more energy than a battery (allowing them to travel further). And unlike batteries, which can require hours to charge, vehicles powered in this way can be refueled in minutes, similar to traditional internal combustion engines.

Of course, if it were so easy, hydrogen vehicles would already dominate battery-powered cars (and internal combustion engines, too). Several crucial bottlenecks have inhibited their growth. First, fuel cells are the most expensive components in the car, and for years they’ve made the technology uncompetitive with battery electrics. For example, the Toyota Mirai – the Japanese company’s signature fuel-cell vehicle – sells for around $70,000 (unsubsidized). Meanwhile, Chinese battery-electric vehicles can sell for less than $10,000. Second, fuel cells might be clean-burning but hydrogen is often generated from fossil fuels, including coal. That’s problematic if the goal is carbon reduction. And third, hydrogen infrastructure – everything from pipelines to fueling stations – is both expensive and rare. In China, the cost of a hydrogen station is around $1.5 million. That’s a tough investment to make, especially when there are fewer than 5,000 fuel-cell vehicles operating in the country.

Ultimately, success will require overcoming significant technical and market hurdles. China‘s success in building a battery-electric industry guarantees that it’ll be in the race, if not the eventual leader, in this next stage in decarbonizing transport. For Chinese investors, that’s a bet worth making.