The world needs steel. It’s strong, durable, and fully recyclable. However, traditional steelmaking has a heavy environmental impact/footprint. In fact, the steel industry currently accounts for no less than 7 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions.
But this can – and must – change. SSAB is currently upscaling and commercializing the world’s first fossil-free steelmaking technology, known as HYBRIT, in cooperation with partners LKAB and Vattenfall. By replacing the coking coal traditionally used in iron ore-based steelmaking with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen, the process produces steel with virtually no carbon footprint. SSAB Fossil-free™ steel will be launched on the market in 2026.
Concurrently, SSAB is also working with recycled steel, and in March 2023 launched a zero emission steel made from recycled raw material – SSAB Zero™. By incorporating recycled steel into production, SSAB Zero™ can help achieve a circular economy and reduce the environmental impact of the steel industry.
Harnessing the power of recycled steel and renewable energy
SSAB Zero is produced in electric arc furnaces (EAF) using recycled steel as the raw material, while the production process is powered by fossil-free electricity and renewable natural gas . The result is steel produced with virtually zero emissions.
“By utilizing steel scrap and fossil-free energy, we can make a significant contribution towards decarbonizing the steel industry,” says Ben Kowing, CTO, SSAB Americas. “Along with our continued efforts to develop the world’s first fossil-free steel, SSAB Zero™ will be an important part of our future comprehensive zero fossil carbon emission-free steel offering.”
Fossil-free vs. zero fossil carbon emission: what’s the difference?
Both SSAB Zero™ and SSAB Fossil-free™ steel are produced with no fossil carbon emissions, with production powered entirely by fossil-free electricity and renewable natural gas. The key difference is that SSAB Zero is produced using recycled steel, whereas SSAB Fossil-free steel is based on iron-ore without fossil fuels. However, the reality is that there is not enough scrap steel available to meet global demand, while the commercialization of fossil-free steel is still a few years away. As such, SSAB Zero™ and SSAB Fossil-free™ are not competing products – in fact, they have been developed to complement each other towards the same goal: zero fossil carbon emission.
“Based on the increasing customer demand for fossil-free steel, we soon realized that we could use more than one technology to meet the challenge of decarbonization,” says Kowing. “We now have a comprehensive offer of fossil carbon emission-free steels, so that regardless of the ironmaking process – based on iron ore or recycled scrap – SSAB will have the best offering on the market.”
The real green solution
In many industries that rely on steel, finding greener alternatives is imperative to combating climate change.
However, when it comes to SSAB Zero™ and SSAB Fossil-free™ steel, SSAB does not engage in any mass balancing allocation of emission reduction or carbon offsetting activities. The carbon emission reductions are real and tangible. SSAB is completely transparent about any associated carbon emissions, no matter how small, and the carbon footprint of both steels will be verified by a third-party.
“We understand that for many of our customers, steel represents a large part of their own carbon footprint, so they need complete transparency,” says Kowing. “We always ensure our steels are delivered with accurate and reliable values, which our customers can use with confidence in their own footprint calculations.”