New Steel Production Produces Water As A By-Product Instead Of Carbon Dioxide

SSAB has developed a new procedure in which water is created as a steel industry by-product, instead of carbon dioxide.


Dr. Beccy Corkill

Beccy is a custom content producer who holds a PhD in Biological Science, a Master’s in Parasites and Disease Vectors, and a Bachelor’s in Human Biology and Forensic Science.

Custom Content Manager

A bottle of purewaste water from SSAB standing on different metal blocks, water comes from a HYBRIT process which produces fossil free water
Water is the by-product, instead of CO2, when producing fossil-free steel. Image courtesy of SSAB.

This November, many important decision-makers and climate activists descended on the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm El-Sheikh for the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27). 

During this event, vital climate decisions were discussed with the aim to try and tackle the increasingly critical climate emergency. This included ways to fight climate change and solutions to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Steel is essential in modern-day living. It is found in our houses, bridges, cars, medical equipment, and so much more. Unfortunately, the steel industry is one of the world’s largest contributors to global warming: in 2020, it contributed around 7 to 9 percent of global CO2 emissions. 

Traditionally, steel is produced by the blast furnace, a process that is centuries old. In fact, the first ever blast furnace appeared in the 14th century and produced approximately 1 ton of steel a day. It was a process that used coal and coke and this, in turn, produced invaluable steel, but also a more harmful by-product – CO2

SSAB is a Swedish steel company that has reinvented the steelmaking process and aims to offer fossil-free steel on an industrial scale as early as 2026

The technology is called HYBRIT and uses a method called hydrogen-based direct reduction. This involves iron ore pellets (processed without fossil fuel) and uses hydrogen instead of coal and coke in the ore reduction process, emitting water as a by-product instead of CO2. The end product is more environmentally friendly steel with virtually no CO2 pollution.  

From iron ore mining to the final product, this process helps to ensure that fossil fuels remain underground, as fossil-free electricity and fuels are used throughout the entire production. 

The only emission of this process is water vapor. As a visual demonstration to the public that the steel industry can now move in the right direction, SSAB has bottled some of this water, calling it Pure Waste. Although the bottled water will not be sold to the public, the CTO of SSAB took the plunge and guzzled down this safety-tested drink during COP27.

“A bottle of Pure Waste from the HYBRIT pilot plant is the best proof of what this technology means. We are going from emitting CO2 to emitting water that can easily be recycled. It is nothing short of an incredible possibility,” said Martin Pei, CTO of SSAB.

Changes to the production methodology could have a fantastic impact on cutting the global carbon footprint. However, for the greatest change, more companies need to transform

We have now shown with the HYBRIT technology that it is possible to produce steel at a large scale without emitting CO2. SSAB wants to inspire and support other steel producers to achieve climate neutrality. That is why SSAB has together with its partners filed for a portfolio of patents for HYBRIT, making the technology available to the world,” Pei says. 

SSAB has also created a new online knowledge-sharing platform around fossil-free steel.

“The world is at a precipice of climate change. We have proven that there is a functioning technology to make fossil-free steel. But we cannot change the entire industry ourselves. Others need to act as well if we are to reach Paris Agreement goals. I hope that our colleagues in the industry will seize this chance to transform our sector from a climate villain to a climate hero,” added Pei. 

This new technology is a step in the right direction and one that could have a huge impact on carbon emissions. 

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