Steel

Converting a steel mill to climate-neutral steel production – Chemical Engineering


| By Gerald Ondrey

To decarbonize steel production and its high carbon dioxide emissions, Fraunhofer researchers, TS Elino GmbH (Dürren; www.elino.de) and Salzgitter AG (all Germany; www.salzgitter-ag.com) are working on converting an existing steel mill to climate-neutral production methods. The aim is to produce steel by the direct reduction of iron ore with hydrogen, which would completely replace coke as a reducing agent. The H2 required for this method is produced by electrolysis with electricity generated from renewable energy sources. Overall, this could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 97%.

Work has already been underway for years to develop new technologies to decarbonize production. As part of the new BeWiSe project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF: Bonn, Germany), the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS; Dresden, Germany; www.ikts.fraunhofer.de), partner institutes Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI; Karlsruhe) and Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT; Oberhausen) and Salzgitter are focusing on H2-based direct reduction.

The project is studying the use of waste heat to increase the electrical efficiency of electrolysis using high-temperature electrolysis based on solid-oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC) developed at Fraunhofer IKTS. The partners are looking to optimize the entire process chain in terms of resource and energy efficiency. For this purpose, a direct-reduction demonstration plant (about 30-m tall) on the Salzgitter AG premises is being used (photo).

climate-neutral steel production

μDRAL plant — first direct reduction plant flexibly operated with hydrogen and natural gas in an integrated mill (Source: Salzgitter AG)

“We have been working successfully with the Fraunhofer researchers for six years to transform steel production,” says Alexander Redenius, head of Resource Efficiency and Technology Development at Salzgitter Mannesmann Forschung. “The direct reduction demonstration plant enables us to optimize the reduction process and how it interacts with the other process steps. Through this work, we are creating the basis for sustainable steel production with low CO2 emissions.” The company aims to convert one third of its steel production to the climate-friendly process with hydrogen as early as 2026. 


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