HYBRIT’s World-First Pilot Plant Wins Energy Agency’s Backing

The Swedish Energy Agency is providing financial support for the HYBRIT project in connection with the construction of a pilot plant which will perform tests allowing fossil-free steel production to be scaled up.

HYBRIT—SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall’s project for creating fossil-free steel—has been granted SEK 528 million in financial backing by the Swedish Energy Agency. HYBRIT has the potential to reduce Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions by 10%, and Finland’s emissions by 7%. For Sweden’s part, the reduction has been described as crucial to the country’s efforts to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement. 

The Swedish Energy Agency has confirmed its decision to provide financial support for the HYBRIT project in connection with the construction of a pilot plant that is expected to be completed by 2020. The plant will perform tests that will allow fossil-free steel production to be scaled up. Expenditure for the pilot phase is expected to total SEK 1.4 billion, of which project owners SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall will provide 63%. The support from the Swedish Energy Agency covers 25% of the cost for the actual pilot plant, and higher percentages of the different scientific projects. The Swedish Energy Agency‘s total contribution amounts to about 37% of the total estimated costs..

“Trials at pilot-plant scale are necessary to verify our conclusions from the small-scale laboratory attempts in a larger scale that is more similar to the future industrial process. They provide the basis for a clearer understanding of what happens within an interconnected industrial system and how we can achieve an efficient production process. This is a critical step in order to ultimately reach our goal of fossil-free steel production and to reap all its environmental benefits. With that in mind, we’re very happy that the Swedish Energy Agency has chosen to continue to support us,” says HYBRIT CEO Mårten Görnerup.

“Our involvement with the HYBRIT initiative is helping drive the transition to both a fossil-free industry and a sustainable way of life. We’re also helping to promote the Swedish steel industry’s ability to compete in the long term as well as stepping up efforts to establish unique, green energy systems in Sweden,” says Remy Kolessar, Head of the Department for Research and Innovation at the Swedish Energy Agency.

The funding provided by the Agency covers two subprojects:

  • Project 1 (Preliminary studies on direct reduction based on hydrogen gas with a subsequent steel production process) concerns preliminary studies on the direct reduction of iron ore pellets using hydrogen gas and their subsequent melting in an electric arc furnace for the purpose of steel production. These studies aim to develop a technique in which pure hydrogen gas is used as the reducing agent in the production of sponge iron from iron ore pellets. This is both HYBRIT’s core concept and the phase that requires the most research and development.
  • Project 2 (Preliminary studies on fossil-free pellet heating) investigates the development of a fossil-free heating technique for the sintering of iron ore pellets. The studies’ dual aim is to reduce emissions from existing pellet plants and to design a new pelletizing process.

Two feasibility studies have been carried out since HYBRIT was launched in the spring of 2016. A research project was also started in 2017 using funds provided by the Swedish Energy Agency. This project comprises a large-scale collaboration between industry, academia, and research institutes aimed at identifying possible fossil-free options in the energy-mine-iron-steel value chain.

The Swedish Energy Agency has previously contributed SEK 60 million in support of HYBRIT’s preliminary studies and research projects, together with a further SEK 10 million, equal to half the cost for the planning and design of the pilot plant whose construction will begin in June 2018.

In 2024, HYBRIT will transition from the pilot phase to the demonstration phase (scheduled to run from 2025 to 2035), which will be equivalent to small industrial-scale production. The plan is to have established a fossil-free industrial steel production process by 2035.