HYBRIT first in world with hydrogen-reduced sponge iron

June 21, 2021

SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall have now produced the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron at a pilot scale. The technological breakthrough in the HYBRIT initiative eliminates around 90% of emissions in conjunction with steelmaking and is a decisive step on the road to fossil-free steel.

The HYBRIT pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden has completed test production of sponge iron and demonstrates that it is possible to use fossil-free hydrogen gas to reduce iron ore instead of using coal and coke to remove the oxygen. Production has been continuous and of good quality. Around 100 tonnes have been made so far. This is the first time ever that hydrogen made with fossil-free electricity has been used in the direct reduction of iron ore at a pilot scale. The goal in principle is to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the steelmaking process by using only fossil-free feedstock and fossil-free energy in all parts of the value chain.

Hydrogen-based reduction is a critical milestone, which paves the way for future fossil-free iron- and steelmaking. SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall intend, through HYBRIT, to create the most efficient value chain from the mine to steel, with the aim of being first to market, in 2026, with fossil-free steel at an industrial scale.

Last year, HYBRIT, a joint initiative of SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, began test operations to make hydrogen-reduced sponge iron in the pilot plant built with support from the Swedish Energy Agency. The technology is being constantly developed and the sponge iron that has been successfully made using hydrogen technology is the feedstock for the fossil-free steel of the future.

“This is a major breakthrough both for us and for the entire iron and steel industry. LKAB is the future supplier of sponge iron and this is a critical step in the right direction. Progress with HYBRIT enables us to maintain the pace in our transition and already in 2026, we will begin the switch to industrial-scale production with the first demonstration plant in Gällivare, Sweden. Once LKAB has converted its entire production to sponge iron, we will enable the transition of the steel industry and reduce global emissions by around 35 million tonnes a year, which corresponds to two thirds of Sweden’s entire emissions. This is the greatest action we can take together for the good of the climate,” says Jan Moström, President and CEO at LKAB.

“This technological breakthrough is a critical step on the road to fossil-free steel. The potential cannot be underestimated. It means that we can reach climate goals in Sweden and Finland and contribute to reducing emissions across Europe. At the same time, it creates new jobs and export successes. SSAB’s transition means we will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10% in Sweden and 7% in Finland. High-strength fossil-free steel will also allow us to help our customers to strengthen their competitiveness. As early as this year, we will deliver minor quantities of steel made using hydrogen-based reduction to customers, and in 2026 we will deliver fossil-free steel at a large scale,” says Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO at SSAB.

Fossil-free electricity and hydrogen storage

The hydrogen used in the direct reduction process is generated by electrolysis of water with fossil-free electricity, and can be used immediately or stored for later use. In May, HYBRIT began work on building a pilot-scale hydrogen storage facility adjacent to the direct reduction pilot plant in Luleå.

“Sweden’s and Vattenfall’s fossil-free electricity is a basic requirement for the low carbon footprint of hydrogen-reduced sponge iron. The breakthrough that we can announce today shows in a very real way how electrification contributes to enabling a fossil-free life within a generation,” says Anna Borg, President and CEO at Vattenfall.

FACTS/HYBRIT initiative

For further information, please contact:

Kristina Benson, General Manager Communications, LKAB, +46 7 0342 1085
Mia Widell, Press Relations, SSAB, +46 7 6527 2501
Magnus Kryssare, Press Officer, Vattenfall, +46 7 6769 5607

Kontaktperson: Tina Benson, kommunikationschef. Tel: 46 (0) 980 710 85. E-post: tina.benson@lkab.com

LKAB är en internationell gruv- och mineralkoncern som erbjuder hållbara järnmalms-, mineral- och specialprodukter. Vi leder omställningen av järn- och stålindustrin och vår plan är att utveckla koldioxidfria processer och produkter fram till år 2045. Sedan 1890 har vi utvecklats genom unika innovationer och tekniklösningar och drivs framåt av mer än 4 500 medarbetare i 12 länder. LKAB-koncernen omsatte cirka 34 miljarder kronor år 2020. www.lkab.com