Decarbonization: Big challenge, great potential

The biggest challenges go hand in hand with the greatest potential. Today, integrated steel mills produce around 1.3 billion metric tons of crude steel annually, accounting for 90 percent of the steel industry's CO2 emissions. Every year, more than 30 million metric tons of crude steel capacity will have to be converted to climate-neutral processes to achieve the current climate targets alone.

The time is now for SMS group to make the most of its unique core competencies, technologies, and partnerships because we are the only supplier worldwide that can provide all climate-neutral processes from a single source. From green hydrogen to direct reduction and electric steelmaking to the conversion of downstream processes - with solutions that our customers can use in the short, medium, and long term.

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Pathways towards green steel

The green transformation of the steel industry is a marathon, not a sprint. Lighthouse projects like H2 Green Steel and thyssenkrupp Steel will prove that climate-neutral steel production is possible. However, due to the long investment cycles for metallurgical plants, a large part of future CO2 savings must come from the conversion of existing mills. Here, there is no one-size-fits-all ‘best’ option. That’s why we have tailor-made solutions for any customer scenario that take into account local conditions such as iron ore quality, energy infrastructure, and existing equipment, as well as local policies, rules, and regulations.

All three major decarbonization routes have the potential to achieve climate neutrality by introducing innovative integrated process solutions in new (greenfield) or existing steel (brownfield) plants and by putting in place additional infrastructure for the use of fossil-free energy sources. 

Our green steel lighthouse projects

Green steel roadmap

  • Reduce

    Add-on technologies and digital solutions for up to 30 percent CO2 reduction

    The green transformation of the steel industry will be a marathon, not a sprint. Due to the long investment cycles for metallurgical plants, a large part of the required CO2 savings must come from the ongoing operation of existing mills. That’s why we developed the solutions to save up to 30 percent of carbon emissions by means of modernizing existing plants and systems.

    One example is the injection of hydrogen or hot synthesis gases into the blast furnace. With this measure, the CO2 footprint in hot metal production can be reduced considerably.

    Digitalization also represents a powerful lever for decarbonization. The Viridis Energy and Sustainability Suite is an integrated solution for energy, resources, and sustainability management. It effectively lowers CO2 emissions by implementing integrated energy and resource tracking, optimally dispatching of the process gases and fuels, simulating production processes with different parameters, managing energy flows and tracking of emissions.

  • Transform

    New process solutions for up to 70 percent reduction of CO2 footprint

    Due to the use of large amount of coke for iron ore reduction, the conventional blast furnace–BOF route is the steelmaking route with the highest CO2 emissions. That’s why we help our customers to introduce new integrated process solutions that enable to drastically reduce their CO2 footprint, such as direct reduction plants or the enhanced furnace technology EASYMeltTM.

    Our metallurgy team in Luxembourg is currently working on a new furnace that achieves a CO2 savings potential of up to 70 percent. The EASyMeltTM is an electrified direct reduction and melting process, using a minor quantity of coke and gases like natural gas, coke oven gas, cracked ammonia and hydrogen. In brownfield, EASYMELTTM is less CAPEX-intensive than any other low-carbon ironmaking technology. Thanks to high flexibility in raw material quality and energy sources, the production cost is low and can be optimized according to market conditions.

    Direct reduction Midrex® technology is a well-established alternative when it comes to steelmaking from virgin materials. In terms of decarbonization, the Midrex® plant's carbon footprint is around 60 percent lower compared to conventional technology. In addition, it can be gradually converted to hydrogen supply so that with minor changes to the plant and its operating parameters, it can achieve complete carbon neutrality. As a result of a construction license agreement with Kobe Steel in Japan, SMS group is able to offer Midrex® direct reduction ironmaking plants as part of its portfolio.

  • Achieve

    New energy infrastructure to take the last mile towards carbon neutrality

    Carbon-neutral steelmaking sounds like a futuristic dream, but it will become reality in 2025 when the H2 Green Steel project starts production. 

    Green steel production requires a completely new energy infrastructure. Carbon-based fuels have to be replaced by hydrogen, biomass or electricity from renewable sources. That's why SMS group is taking an active role in shaping the supply and use of hydrogen. However, due to the currently limited availability of green hydrogen, we are also working on alternative approaches to achieve climate neutrality, including the use of feedstocks from renewable sources like biomass or charcoal in combination with carbon capture and usage.

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Reducing emissions along the complete process chain

More than 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused in the primary stage during hot metal production. But that doesn't mean SMS group neglects the downstream processes. There is potential for a significant reduction of the CO2 footprint, to save energy as well as input materials, water and consumables, to reduce emissions or to increase recycling rates in every single stage of production. 

As early as 2012, we started to combine our range of sustainable technologies under the label of “Ecoplants”. This label has been awarded to plants and plant concepts that were more sustainable than reference plants. Of course, we will keep following this path and continue to optimize all plants along the entire process chain. In addition, our digital expertise provides us with new solutions in order to monitor and reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in metallurgical operations.

Our activities in this field also cover auxiliary plants and processes such as gas cleaning, energy recovery, recycling of by-products or water treatment.

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