Steelmakers eyeing hydrogen-based direct reduced iron, or DRI, to cut carbon emissions may be able to deploy changes to their operations at lower costs while waiting for improved hydrogen availability and costs.
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Steel plants can invest in carbon dioxide emissions reductions through blast furnace injectants, oxyfuel combustion, renewable energy use, and boosting efficiency, according to industrial gas group Linde.
This may help reduce coking coal and energy usage.
Oxygen-based combustion can be applied to solid-fuels-based iron ore pellet and sinter plants, as well as steel furnaces, cutting CO2 emissions by 10%-40%, said Pravin Mathur, Linde's executive director for metals, combustion and energy.
Linde's gas applications technologies can support decarbonization, creating substantial immediate CO2 emission reductions rather than waiting simply on hydrogen to be used, he said at Steel Times International's Sustainability & Steelmaking webinar on Jan. 22.
"Hydrogen will always be an expensive fuel, $2/kg is around $15/GJ," Mathur said. "You can convert to oxyfuel today."
The S&P Global Platts Netherlands PEM Electrolysis hydrogen price, including capex, was assessed at Eu4.6116/kg ($5.61/kg) on Jan. 22. Platts Steam Methane Reforming with CCS, capex and carbon hydrogen was Eur1.9697/kg.
Steelmakers are piloting hydrogen-based DRI to replace blast furnaces, which may start to become commercially viable in the latter half of the decade, with expansions expected in the 2030s.
Green hydrogen from renewables may boost hydrogen supplies after natural gas and fossil fuels-based cheaper hydrogen sources first develops markets. Carbon capture, storage and utilization may speed up blue hydrogen's delivery to market.
DRI with natural gas can also cut CO2 emissions compared with blast furnace steel plants, and may help slash steel sector emissions more quickly, Primetals, a technology developer, and industry analysts expect. Iron metallics can support ferrous scrap usage in helping steel reach specific grades, qualities and chemistries.
In Europe, green steel investments and support may be tied to new technologies, such as hydrogen electrolyzers and renewables power build outs.
Interest and financing for green steel could be limited until European steel mills generate more free cashflow after two lean years in steel demand and pricing, and win stronger steel customer and investor stakeholder backing. This will be aided by clear policies around carbon and energy pricing, and carbon-based steel import taxes proposed by European industry groups.
"We don't have green hydrogen competitive in the market place," said Lasse Kari, global energy research lead at Accenture, at the webinar. "Blue hydrogen is still not a financial and economically viable solution currently."
Steel mills may look to use blue hydrogen as well as green sources. Funding and investment policies may determine progress and applications, he added.