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Green steel advancing fast amid increasing decarbonisation commitments

Met coal export demand is more vulnerable than mining operators, like Whitehaven, claim.

The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s 2023 update to its Net Zero Roadmap report reflects a growing emphasis on hydrogen-based ironmaking. In the 2023 update, the IEA decreased the share of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology expected in iron production by 2050 from 53% to 37% and increased the hydrogen-based pathway from 29% to 44%. The report highlighted that the number of project announcements for hydrogen-based direct reduced iron (DRI) steel production has increased significantly since 2021, when only one was in development.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA wrote in April this year that: “The project pipeline for producing steel with hydrogen rather than coal is expanding rapidly. If currently announced projects come to fruition, we could already have more than half of what we need in 2030 for the IEA’s net zero pathway.”

BlueScope Steel’s chief executive Mark Vasella noted last month that momentum in the steel industry to cut carbon emissions was moving faster than he had predicted just two years ago.

Japan’s second largest steelmaker, JFE Steel has announced it will replace one of the blast furnaces at its Kurashiki plant with an electric arc furnace (EAF) by 2028. This is the first announcement by one of Japan’s three major steel enterprises to electrify a blast furnace. It is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 75%.

The world’s second largest steel producer, Acelormittal is transitioning its Gijon steel plant to a DRI-EAF production route. The DRI will be the first of its kind in Spain, with EAF production planned before the end of 2025.

In Sweden, SSAB is the first steel producer to offer a scrap-based steel product in compliance with several near zero-emissions steel production thresholds, if claimed values are achieved. SSAB plans to deliver 40,000 tonnes of carbon-free steel in 2023 and to ramp up production to 100,000 tonnes in 2025; Volvo Group has already signed a delivery agreement. SSAB also plans to convert its entire Nordic steel production system in around 2030 to carbon-free production and has already invested SEK 6.2 billion in a new EAF and raw material handling in Oxelosund in Sweden.

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