Together the companies have set up the joint venture company HYBRIT 2017. The objective is to have a completely fossil-free process for steel manufacture by 2035.
The pilot study report, completed in January 2018, gave the green light for the initiative. For the first time in 1,000 years, an opportunity exists to bring about a technological shift and a globally unique pilot plant in Northern Sweden is planned for the spring. The initiative can cut Sweden's total carbon dioxide emissions by ten per cent and Finland's by seven per cent. It has been described as crucial to enable Sweden to meet the targets in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The idea is that today's blast furnace process will be replaced by a process called direct reduction. Put simply, it entails coke, which is currently used to reduce the iron ore to iron, being replaced with hydrogen gas, which is produced by electricity from fossil-free sources of energy. The by-product is then ordinary water, which can be recovered for production of new hydrogen gas.
Sweden has unique conditions for such an initiative. It has a specialised and innovative steel industry, access to climate-smart and renewable electricity and Europe's best quality iron ore.
HYBRIT is divided into three phases.
- A pilot study where all conditions are surveyed, 2016–2017.
- Trials in a pilot study, 2018–2024.
- Trials in demonstration plant, 2025–2035.
Since its inception, HYBRIT has received support in several stages from the Swedish Energy Agency, including for a four-year research project.
Implementation of the project requires significant national contributions from the government, research institutes and universities.
Good access to fossil-free electricity is crucial for HYBRIT to succeed.
For many years the focus has been on sustainable electricity generation. In Sweden we already have an electricity system with very low climate impact. We therefore want to focus on sustainable electricity consumption and use of climate-smart electricity as a replacement for fossil fuels in other parts of society, such as transportation and heavy industrial processes.