Canvas Category OEM : Primary Metal
We’re decarbonizing ironmaking for green steel production using intermittent renewable energy and low-grade iron ores.
The trillion-dollar quest to make green steel
But the main explanation for steel’s giant carbon footprint is that, globally, most steel is still made by heating fossil fuels to turn raw iron ore into finished metal — a process that generates 90 percent of CO2 emissions from steel, along with a toxic soup of heavy metals and air pollution. While recycled steel can displace some of the demand for “primary” steel, it doesn’t diminish the need to clean up or replace coal-fueled furnaces.
Most likely, that shift will include using hydrogen to process iron ore for steelmaking. Only one facility in the world is currently doing this at any meaningful scale: the $180 million Hybrit project in Sweden. However, dozens of projects involving hydrogen are in various stages of development worldwide. Sweden’s H2 Green Steel recently raised $1.6 billion to build the world’s first large-scale, hydrogen-fueled plant, while Chinese steelmaker HBIS Group said it produced its first batch of hydrogen-infused iron.
Undoubtedly, the steel industry’s transformation will require countries to build significantly more renewable energy capacity, both to power electricity-driven furnaces and to produce “green” hydrogen, of which very little is available today worldwide. Down the line, next-generation technologies developed by startups such as Electra and Boston Metal could make it cheaper and easier to produce green steel. All told, decarbonizing iron and steel is expected to require $1.4 trillion of investment by midcentury.
In 2021, three years after construction began, the Hybrit plant successfully produced the world’s first steel reduced by 100 percent fossil-free hydrogen,” which it delivered to Swedish automaker Volvo Group. To date, Pei said the facility has produced about 2,000 metric tons of DRI, also known as “sponge iron.” For comparison, that’s roughly the average amount of steel needed to make over 2,200 cars.
Nucor Investing in Start-Up Company Developing Zero-Carbon Iron Technology
Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE) announced today that it has made an equity investment in Electra, a Colorado-based start-up developing a process to produce carbon-free iron that can be used to make steel. The company uses renewable energy to refine low-grade iron ores into high-purity iron through electrochemical and hydrometallurgical processes. This material will be used in the steelmaking process to offset other high-quality metallics that come with higher greenhouse gas emissions.
The process developed by Electra produces Low-Temperature Iron (LTI) from commercial and low-grade ores using zero-carbon intermittent electricity. The company electrochemically refines iron ore into pure iron at 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) using renewable electricity. That iron can be turned into steel using existing electric arc furnaces, which account for 70% of steel production in the U.S.
Electra raises $85M to electrify and decarbonize iron and steelmaking with no green premium
Electra, a green iron company, has raised $85 million to produce Low-Temperature Iron (LTI) from commercial and low-grade ores using zero-carbon intermittent electricity. Electra’s process emits zero carbon dioxide emissions and carries zero green premium, meaning it will cost the same or less than existing production methods powered by fossil fuels.
Electra, founded by entrepreneurs with decades of experience developing complex electrochemical systems, has created a novel process to electrochemically refine iron ore into pure iron at 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) using renewable electricity and then convert the iron to steel using the existing infrastructure of electricity-powered arc furnaces. By comparison, 69% of steel today is made at approximately 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,912 degrees Fahrenheit) using coal, emitting about two tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of steel produced.