Steel Plant in Sweden Set to Operate Entirely on Hydrogen Fuel

SSAB steelmaker wants to become the world's first fossil fuel-free steel plant powered only by hydrogen.
Shelby Rogers
Integrated steel mill found in the NetherlandsWikipedia Creative Commons

A leading Swedish steelmaker will make the first fossil fuel-free steel plant powered by hydrogen. The company called SSAB confirmed earlier this week that plans are in place to overhaul the company's practices and technology. 

This new project called HYBRIT will use hydrogen produced with electricity from fossil-free Swedish resources. The resulting emissions are water. 

According to Reuters' reports, the company's global output reached upwards of 8.8 million tonnes last year. The SSAB said in a company statement that the new system could remove the greenhouse gases that made up 10 percent of Sweden's total carbon dioxide emissions and 7 percent of Finland's emissions, according to SSAB spokeswoman Viktoria Karsberg. 

“After building the pilot plant we will run tests between 2020 and 2024 and then we can scale up to a demonstration plant. By 2035 we should have a ready solution for all production,” she told Reuters.

The plant's plans are expected to be finalized later this year. Cost expectations range from $127 to $254 million. SSAB expects production to range between 1 or 2 tonnes of steel per hour. The demo plant would produce 500,000 tonnes yearly. 

Erik Brandsma, Director General at the Swedish Energy Agency, said: "With our commitment to the HYBRIT initiative, we are contributing to the long-term competitiveness of the Swedish steel industry and gearing up work on the unique green energy systems."


SSAB isn't the only company involved in the initiative. Europe's largest iron ore producer LKAB and massive electricity producer Vattenfall all joined together in order to make HYBRIT a reality. 

Magnus Hall, President and CEO of Vattenfall, said: "It’s very positive that we can take the next step with a unique pilot plant, for both the project and for our work on the climate challenge. The industrial electrification and climate-smart hydrogen will be crucial factors in lower emissions and a fossil-free society."

Funding this project won't be easy, according to SSAB's announcement. 

"To be able to carry out this project, however, significant national contributions are still required from the state, research institutions and universities," the project's press statement said. "There has to be good access to fossil-free electricity, improved infrastructure and rapid expansion of high voltage networks, research initiatives, faster permit processes and the government's active support for pilot and demonstration facilities and long term support at EU level."

Internationally, steel mills remain some of the biggest causes of pollution. Various countries have set aside their own initiatives to try to reduce the overall CO2 emissions put out by the largest producers. In October 2017, dozens of massive steel mills throughout China suddenly stopped operating throughout the northern part of the country. Those measures were expected to cut overall steel output by 10 percent for China within five months while reducing the CO2 amount equivalent to how much Denmark and Finland produce in an entire year.