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Until now, the gases generated through steel manufacturing at thyssenkrupp’s works in Duisburg have been used in thermal energy recovery. However, this process produces CO2 emissions, which the company and its partners – who are committed to a climate-neutral future for the industrial sector as part of IN4climate.NRW – want to avoid. One possible solution is to use the emissions as a source of resources by converting the gases into raw materials for the chemical industry.
Innovation: steel mill gases as a source of raw materials
The gases generated in steel manufacturing contain, among other things, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2). Processes to recover the individual components have already been established by the industry, but the particular challenge now lies in the complex composition of the steel mill gases. The 17 project partners are trialling methods of cleaning and separating the gases as well as managing the process with a research laboratory in Oberhausen and the Technikum pilot plant at the steelworks in Duisburg. Their aim is to produce ammonia and methanol, which can be used as raw materials in the manufacture of numerous end products.
“It’s the first time that the steel industry has embarked on such a path. And the Carbon2Chem concept is proving itself in practice in our Technikum pilot plant. Our vision of a virtually carbon-free steel production process is becoming a reality.”
Dr Markus Oles, Carbon2Chem Project Coordinator
Efficiency: hydrogen from surplus electricity generated by renewables
Hydrogen is needed to convert the steel mill gases into chemicals. Part of the Carbon2Chem project therefore involves generating hydrogen through the electrolysis of water. The goal is to generate hydrogen flexibly and store it when the electricity needed for electrolysis is available as surplus power from renewable sources. This way, the process can also help to stabilise the electricity grid.
Impact: potential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions
The ability to recover resources from waste gases from steel production offers enormous potential as we transition towards a climate neutral industrial sector. In the medium term, approximately 20 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from Germany’s steel industry can be recovered cost-effectively each year – a figure that corresponds to 10 per cent of the German industrial sector’s annual CO2 emissions. Globally, there are around 50 steelworks where the process being researched as part of Carbon2Chem could be implemented. The partners involved in the project plan to invest more than 100 million euros in the scheme by 2025. The project also receives funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).