Hydrogen instead of carbon by thyssenkrupp Steel

Duisburg-based steel manufacturer thyssenkrupp Steel aims to transition to climate neutral production by 2050. As part of the climate transformation, the company has joined forces with Air Liquide and the BFI Steel Research Institute at its site in Duisburg to launch the first trial of its kind in the world, which will see it replace coal dust with hydrogen in one of its blast furnaces. The process marks an important first step towards climate-neutral steel production and contributes to the establishment of a sustainable climate-neutral industrial sector.

The steel industry is one of the main industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. At its site in Duisburg, thyssenkrupp Steel produces around 11 million tonnes of steel every year. The manufacture of 1 tonne of steel generates approximately 1.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The savings potential, which the company now wants to leverage by means of a special hydrogen-based process, is correspondingly high. It is expected that the technique will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 20 per cent per tonne of pig iron produced. In the course of the long-term project, further measures will be taken to convert the entire production process and reduce emissions to near zero.

Innovation: hydrogen as a reducing agent

The steel production process begins with the production of pig iron, which, these days, is usually made from iron ore in blast furnaces using coke and pulverised coal. Because of this production process, the steel industry has long been a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions, the process must be redesigned – by using alternative reducing agents, for example. And that’s why thyssenkrupp Steel has opted to use hydrogen. Instead of coke and coal dust, it’s the hydrogen that reacts with the oxygen in the iron ore – producing water vapour rather than CO2 and enabling CO2 emissions to be reduced by up to 20 per cent. In the long term, further, more fundamental, changes to technology will make it possible to cut emissions to almost zero.

“In order to achieve ambitious climate protection goals with an industrial sector that will continue to be globally competitive in the future, there must be a radical rethink about some aspects of industrial and energy-intensive processes such as steel production. I’m glad that we have thyssenkrupp Steel, Air Liquide and the BFI here by our side as innovative partners.”

Professor Andreas Pinkwart, NRW Minister of Economic Affairs

Efficiency: gradual conversion without any loss of production

thyssenkrupp Steel aims to use hydrogen in all the blow moulds in its “blast furnace 9” at the Duisburg site from 2022 in order to partially replace the pulverised coal. In the long term, the company plans to convert its facilities to direct reduction plants based on hydrogen and electric arc furnaces, which will be operated using renewable energy. This technology should then entirely replace the blast furnace route by 2050. In combination with the Carbon2Chem process, this will make steel production climate neutral. The implementation of the measures is planned in such a way that there will be no loss of production. The hydrogen required in the trial phase will be supplied by project partner Air Liquide. The BFI is providing the project with scientific support.

“In future, instead of using carbon in the form of pulverised coal, we will use hydrogen as a reducing agent in blast furnaces. At this point in the production process, this will give rise to a savings potential of around 20 per cent of the CO2 that would otherwise be emitted.”

Dr Arnd Köfler, Production Director at thyssenkrupp Steel Europe

Impact: climate protection and future viability through green steel

The steel industry is an integral part of the industrial value chain. It’s therefore all the more necessary that we rethink and revise its processes in order to safeguard the sector in the light of the challenges of climate change and make it fit for the future. With its blast furnace project, thyssenkrupp Steel is helping to achieve the climate protection goals and advancing the development of a climate neutral industrial sector. Consequently, the project is making an important contribution to maintaining NRW as a centre for industry.

20 per cent

cut in CO2 emissions

per tonne of pig iron