Volvo gets delivery of world’s first carbon-free steel
On Wednesday, the Volvo Group was handed over its first carbon-free steel. The supplier is Swedish steel company SSAB Öxelund who uses Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (HYBRIT) to replace coal and coke during production.
SSAB’s goal is to decarbonize the steel industry and to commercialize green steel. They plan to have all their traditional furnaces replaced by carbon-neutral ones by 2040 at the latest. And together with Volvo Group, they want to make the first vehicle in the world made from sustainable steel, most likely a truck.
“The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB,” commented Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB, “it represents proof that it’s possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry.”
Green steel is made through HYBRIT technology, a joint project involving two heavily state-owned partners: mining company LKAB and energy company Vattenfall. In this process, the blast furnace is replaced by an electric arc furnace fueled by hydrogen.
The previous stage, refining the raw material, is also conducted fossil-free. The resulting product is an iron sponge, which is then processed into steel.
‘In a few years’
Volvo Group will start using fossil-free steel this year, firstly for the construction of prototypes and machinery. As of 2022, it hopes to start a small series production for vehicles, gradually moving to mass production. The timeframe is referred to as “in a few years”. Newly-made green steel will also complement traditional and recycled steel in the truck branch of the Swedish manufacturer.
President and CEO of Volvo Group Martin Lundstedt calls it an important step in becoming a climate-neutral company by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement.
The HYBRIT technology is a prestigious case for Sweden. It wants this to be a world-leading climate project with significant export potential. But it is not met without skepticism. Producing the required hydrogen demands vast amounts of electricity – 15 TWh – according to Vattenfall, which needs to be produced in an alternative green manner. Easier for Scandinavia than the rest of the world.
And that’s where the largest steel producers are: China, India, the USA, and Russia. They all rely very heavily on fossil fuels for their production sites; converting these well-established processes will be very costly for them.
The steel industry is responsible for 7-9% of the worldwide carbon footprint. Therefore, switching SSAB to HYBRIT will help decarbonize Sweden by more or less 10%.