Steel decarbonisation gathers speed

  • Market: Hydrogen, Metals
  • 07/02/22

The announcement within the last week of over 6mn t/yr of new direct-reduced iron (DRI) capacity and five new electric arc furnace (EAF) sites by the early 2030s suggests that conditions are becoming increasingly favourable for low-carbon steelmaking.

German steelmaker Salzgitter will fully move to hydrogen and renewable energy-based DRI-EAF steelmaking by 2033. It will award construction projects for industrial facilities by the end of this year.

ArcelorMittal announced further DRI and EAF capacity in France, including 2.5mn t/yr of DRI-EAF capacity at Dunkirk and an EAF unit at Fos-sur-mer to be fed by scrap, requiring a total investment of €1.7bn ($1.94bn). This brings the steelmaker's total DRI capacity plans for 2030 to roughly 10.8mn t/yr, including projects in Spain, Belgium, Germany and France.

Swedish steelmaker SSAB announced last week that it would do the same, bringing forward plans for almost 3mn t/y of EAF capacity at Lulea, Sweden, and Raahe, Finland, to 2030 from 2030-45.

ETS phase-out incentivises decarbonisation

The timing of steelmakers' decarbonisation plans suggests that EU policy on carbon costs is having the desired push effect towards greener steelmaking. While so far only pilot-scale hydrogen-based steel projects are operational, several industrial-scale projects are planned to come on line around 2026, when the ETS-CBAM transition begins, and over 30mn t is planned by 2033, after the phase-out is to be completed in 2030.

The phase-out of free allowances under the EU emissions trading system (ETS) and the introduction of a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) over 2026-30 in theory provides protection for low-carbon steelmaking in the EU, while removing the incentive for steelmakers to cut costs by continuing to use coal or gas as an energy source. And the threat of paying over €80/t in carbon costs is an important incentive for EU steelmakers to decarbonise. But European steel association Eurofer argues that the EU should continue to grant free emissions throughout the whole ETS-CBAM transition phase to mitigate the carbon costs that steelmakers will bear, alongside the considerable investment costs of reducing emissions by 30pc by 2030, estimated by Eurofer to be around €25bn. "The combined effect of the huge investment needed to decarbonise — and also [of] simply cutting emissions by cutting production, which is inevitable given the existing technology, plus skyrocketing energy prices and rising production costs will put enormous and unsustainable pressure on our members," Eurofer director of market analysis Alessandro Sciamarelli said. Eurofer estimates the cost to the industry in 2030 will be €14bn at today's emissions levels or €8.4bn presuming a 30pc emissions reduction.

Cross-sectoral relationships pivotal

The EU plans to have 6GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyser capacity by 2024, and 40GW by 2030, as well as 40GW of production available for import from outside the EU by 2030. But partnership with companies in upstream and downstream sectors have been determining factors for steelmakers assessing the viability of hydrogen-based DRI-EAF steelmaking.

Salzgitter and Danish energy provider Orsted aim to establish a circular supply chain, within which Salzgitter will supply renewably-produced steel, largely for use in the construction of wind farms, and Orsted will supply renewable (wind-generated) energy, as well as returning windmill parts to Salzgitter as low-CO2 scrap at the end of their life span. The company aims to increase the amount of scrap it uses by 50pc to 3mn t/yr by 2033. Salzgitter will also supply low-CO2 steel to all of carmaker BMW's European plants from 2026 onwards.

ArcelorMittal recently added to its investments in the renewable energy sector, committing $100mn to sustainable energy-focused investment fund Breakthrough Energy, and $5mn to Israel's H2Pro, a company that has developed E-TAC (Electrochemical — Thermally Activated Chemical) technology that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen in a process similar to electrolysis.

For SSAB, the abundance of hydroelectric and wind power in northern Sweden has played an important part in allowing the steelmaker to fully commit renewable-powered EAF production within the next eight years, as has its partnership with iron ore mining firm LKAB and energy provider Vattenfall.

Further progress by steelmakers in forming supply or offtake partnerships might encourage further decarbonisation commitments in the near future. German steelmaker Dillinger-SHS has an initial agreementwith engineering company Paul Wurth and steelmaker Liberty to develop a 2mn t/yr DRI plant including 1GW of hydrogen electrolysis capacity at Dunkirk. The steelmaker is also working with seven energy and engineering companies to develop a "hydrogen economy" in the German Saar region, the French Lorraine region, and the state of Luxembourg by producing 61,000 t/yr of hydrogen and investing €600mn in production facilities and transport infrastructure.

Green steel projects

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US against EU push to censure Iran for nuclear activity

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It is what we would like to call a 'just transition' because you think about it from macroeconomic perspective of the country and its economic health. Shell is involved across the energy spectrum in Oman – from upstream gas to alternative, clean energies. What is Shell's overall strategy for the country? In Oman, our strategic foundation has three main pillars. The first is around oil and liquids and our ambition is to sustain oil and liquids production. At the same time, we aim to significantly reduce carbon intensity from the oil production coming from PDO. The second strategic pillar is gas, and our ambition here is to grow the amount of gas we are producing in Oman and also to help Oman grow its LNG export capabilities. The more committed we are in unlocking the gas reserves in the country, the more we can support Oman's growth, diversification, and the resilience of its economy through investments and LNG revenue. Gas also offers a very logical and nice link into blue and green hydrogen, whether in sequence or as a stepping stone to scale the hydrogen economy in the country. The last strategic pillar is to establish low-carbon value chains, predominantly centered around hydrogen, more likely blue hydrogen in the short term and very likely material green in the long term, which is subject to regulations and markets developing. How would you view Oman's potential to be a major exporter of green hydrogen? When examining the foundational aspects of green hydrogen manufacturing, such as the quality of solar and wind resources and their onshore complementarity, Oman emerges as a highly competitive country in terms of its capabilities. But where we are in technology and where we are in global markets and on policy frameworks — the demand centers for green hydrogen are maturing but not yet matured. I think there will be a period of discovery for green hydrogen globally, not just for Oman, in the way LNG started 20-30 years ago. When it does, Oman will be well-positioned to play global role in the global hydrogen economy. But the question is, how much time it is going to take us and what kind of multi-collaboration needs to be in place to enable that? The realisation of this potential hinges on several factors: the policies of the Omani government, its bilateral ties with Japan, Korea, and the EU, and the technological advancements within the industry. Shell has also been looking at developing CCUS opportunities in the country. How big a role can CCUS play in the region's energy transition? CCUS is going to be an important tool in decarbonising the global energy system. We have several projects globally that we are pursuing for own scope 1, scope 2 emissions reductions, as well as to enable scope 3 emissions with the customers and partners In Oman, we are pursuing a blue hydrogen project where CCUS is a clear component. This initiative serves as a demonstrative case, helping us gauge the country's potential for CCUS implementation. We are using that as a proof point to understand the potential for CCUS in the country. At this stage, it's too early to gauge the scale of CCUS adoption in Oman or our specific role within it. However, we are among the pioneers in establishing the initial proof point through our Blue Hydrogen initiative. You were able to kick off production in block 10 in just over a year after signing the agreement. How are things progressing there? We have started producing at the plateau levels that we agreed with the government, which is just above 500mn ft³/d. Block 10 gas is sold to the government, through the government-owned Integrated Gas Company (IGC), which so far has been the entity that purchases gas from various operators in Oman like us, Shell. IGC then allocates that gas on a certain policy and value criteria across different sectors. We will require new gas if we are going to expand LNG in Oman. There is active gas exploration happening there in Block 10. We know there is more potential in the block. We still don't know at what scale it can be produce gas or the reservoir's characteristics. But blocks 10 and 11 are a combination of undiscovered and discovered resources. We are aiming to significantly increase gas production through a substantial boost. However, the exact scale and timing of this expansion will only be discernible upon the conclusion of our two-year exploration campaign in the block. We expect to understand the full growth potential by around mid to late 2025. Do you have any updates on block 11? Has exploration work there begun? We did have a material gas discovery which is being appraised this year, but it is a bit too early to draw conclusions at this stage. So, after the appraisal campaign is completed, we will be able to talk more confidently about the production potential. Exploration is a very uncertain business. You must go after a lot of things and only a few will end up working. We have a very aggressive exploration campaign at the moment. We also expect by the end of 2025, we would be in a much better position to determine the next wave of growth and where it is going to come from. Shell is set to become the largest off taker from Oman LNG, how do you view the LNG markets this year and next? As a company, we are convinced, that the demand for LNG will grow and it needs to grow if the world is going to achieve the energy transition Gas must play a role, it has to play a bigger role globally over the time, mainly to replace coal in power generation and given its higher efficiency and lower carbon intensity fuel in the energy mix. While Oman may not be the largest LNG exporter globally or hold the most significant gas reserves, it is a niche player in the gas sector with a sophisticated and high-quality gas infrastructure. Oman's resource base remains robust, driving ongoing exploration and investment efforts. This growth trajectory includes catering to domestic needs and servicing industrial hubs like Duqm and Sohar, alongside allocating resources for export purpose. We have the ambition to grow gas for domestic purpose and for gas for eventual exports Have you identified any international markets to export LNG? We have been historically and predominantly focused on east and we continue to see east as core LNG market with focus on Japan, Korea, and China. Europe has also emerged on the back of the Ukraine-Russia crisis as growing demand center for LNG. Over time we might focus on different markets to a certain extent. It will be driven on maximising value for the country. By Rithika Krishna Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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