The world’s first fossil-free pellet plant

May 19, 2020
Bio-oil plant
With bio-oil as a heat source in the conveyor belt furnace plant, LKAB will produce fossil-free pellets for the HYBRIT initiative. Photo: Per Juntti.

After the maintenance shutdown, hot tests of the soon-to-be completed bio-oil plant will be started at LKAB's area in Malmberget. "We are now taking a clear and significant step towards the goal of delivering fossil-free pellets for the HYBRIT initiative," says Roger Karlsson, Section Manager for Process and Product Development at LKAB.

LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall are all collaborating in HYBRIT to start carbon-free steel production on an industrial scale by 2035. This means that we will make ourselves independent of fossil fuels and will instead be refining Norbotten iron ore with regionally produced electric power.“Carbon-free electric power meets local iron ore and becomes carbon-free steel, something the world has never seen before. The bio-oil plant in Malmberget is an important piece of the jigsaw in this journey and it is with considerable pride that we will soon be putting the plant into operation,” says Roger Karlsson.

The bio-oil plant is located between the conveyor belt furnace plant and the MK3 pellet plant at LKAB’s industrial area in Malmberget. Construction started just over a year ago and is now in principle completed. Simply put, the plant covers the part of the chain leading up to the furnace in the conveyor belt furnace plant, with both storage, pumping and a heater to keep the right consistency of bio-oil.“It has been a challenge to produce a full-scale plant due to the specific characteristics of bio-oil.  Despite this, the construction project has been relatively straightforward and we have remained on schedule,” says Emil Olsson, project manager at LKAB.

The 17-metre-high cistern holds about 4,000 cubic metres of bio-oil. By using biofuel as a heat source in the conveyor belt furnace plant, the fossil carbon dioxide emissions of operations in Malmberget will be reduced by up to 40 percent, which corresponds to approximately 60,000 tonnes per year, during the test period. The tests start after the maintenance shutdown in May and will run until 2021.“During the trials, we will investigate the consequences of using bio-oil in the conveyor belt furnace plant, with respect to process, product, emissions and energy efficiency. The goal is clear, to make fossil-free pellets,” says Christian Fredriksson, specialist and trials director at LKAB. 

The plant will be taken over by HYBRIT, but will be managed by LKAB’s staff. Initially, the bio-oil plant will be used as a test facility, but the system is dimensioned to be able to run the entire conveyor belt furnace plant in Malmberget on 100% bio-oil.”If we succeed in this, we will be the first processing plant in the world heated solely on fossil-free oil. This shows that LKAB takes climate issues seriously and that we have begun the journey towards fossil-free steel production,” says Roger Karlsson.  

The bio-oil plant is a part of HYBRIT, a joint initiative by SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, with financial support from the Swedish Energy Agency. 

Facts bio-oil plant

Height: 17 metresDiameter: 17 metresSize: holds 4000 m3Construction time: March 2019-May 2020