Hydrogen and steel: decarbonising the steel industry

13 Jul 2023

The steel industry, which has always been fuelled by coal, is one of the industrial sectors that produces a large amount of CO2 emissions.

This is why, in order to respond to the global climate crisis and to follow the ambitious decarbonisation targets set by the EU in the 2030 Agenda, there is a need for a real change in the hard-to-abate sectors.

Steel is a material that easily lends itself to sustainable development in several areas:

  • proper use of natural resources
  • of renewable energies

To curb global warming, the steel industry will have to try to reduce its carbon footprint and can achieve this through the use of hydrogen.

Let’s see how.

The role of hydrogen in decarbonising the steel industry

Hydrogen can play a key role in the decarbonisation of the steel sector because it would allow the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and thus achieve the EU’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

Let us take a step back. The steel industry is defined both as hard-to-abate, because it is difficult to decarbonise, and as energy-intensive. In fact, as we all know, steel production takes place at high temperatures using fossil fuels such as coal and coke.

Therefore, with a view to decarbonising the sector, structural changes must be made to make current production methods (blast furnace and production from scrap) more efficient and sustainable. The new challenge is to make the steel industry green.

How? Precisely through the use of hydrogen.

Currently, in industry, hydrogen can be used as a raw material for the direct reduction of iron ore for steel production. In addition, hydrogen can be used as a fuel for high-temperature processes, e.g. in steel treatment furnaces.

Going into detail, the most common hydrogen-related techniques in the steel industry are:

  • blast furnace injection
  • direct reduction

In the first case, the advantages of hydrogen over carbon monoxide are exploited. This method, however, cannot̀ meet the demand for zero emissions as the injected hydrogen only partially replaces coke.

In the second case, the use of hydrogen as a reducing agent leads to the formation of water instead of carbon dioxide. In this way, overall emissions can approach zero, provided that production is carried out in a sustainable manner.

Thus, hydrogen can be an important key to a sustainable transition.

The importance of hydrogen in a sector such as the steel industry

The use of hydrogen is the ideal choice for hard-to-abate industries, particularly a highly polluting sector such as steel.

Specifically, steel is a material that easily lends itself to sustainable development thanks to:

  • the proper exploitation of natural resources
  • renewable energies
  • green production

At present, hydrogen is mainly generated through steam reforming reactions, which have a lower cost than the electrolysis of water.

Despite this, companies are moving towards major technological innovations to switch from the traditional route with blast furnace and converter to a structure with electrolyser, direct reduction reactor and electric arc furnace. In addition, steel plants will be able to generate some of it directly in the production plant.

In summary, the choice of hydrogen in steel plants will lead to the production of electrolysers and the development of a supply chain involving its production, storage and distribution, with the construction of power plants, as well as research and development activities.

Want to know more?

Read also about the use of green hydrogen in hard-to-abate sectors.


Simplifhy solutions for the decarbonisation of the steel industry

At Simplifhy we design and implement complete solutions for the production and use of hydrogen.

With our solutions we support steel mills that want to initiate a new process at their production sites by replacing traditional methods of hydrogen utilisation via canisters and tankers.

In general, we at Simplifhy are able to create an environmentally friendly process by installing solar panels on the roof of the production plant to carry out electrolysis and thus generate green hydrogen.

We are a full-service supplier: we follow companies step by step: from the feasibility study to the supply of electrolysers, up to the storage of hydrogen and the retrofitting of fuel cells.
We help the customer choose the most suitable solution based on the need and characteristics of the hydrogen application area.

In addition, our many years of experience in the field of energy and hydrogen allows us to design innovative solutions for the production, storage, and use of hydrogen in the steel industry.

Learn more about the decarbonisation of the steel industry.

In Simplifhy we offer strategies and systems for the decarbonisation of industry, through deployment of Hydrogen-based technologies as an alternative fuel.

Our plants are tailoredaccording to the necessities of each specific project.

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