The fossil free steel from SSAB is made from sustainable sponge iron
The fossil free steel from SSAB is made from sustainable sponge iron

Not all green steel is fossil-free steel – here’s why

Increased customer demand, new regulatory requirements, and growth in sustainable investment are all reasons for the growing interest in “green steel”. But since no official definition of “green steel” really exists, how do we know when we’ve been greenwashed?

Traditional steelmaking is the most significant industrial contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, currently accounting for 7 percent of total CO2 emissions globally. Fortunately, there are ways to dramatically reduce or even eliminate steelmaking emissions and reach the Paris Agreement’s goal, while also helping to meet the growing demand for steel.

One successful effort is steel recycling, which has reached an impressive 90 percent in many parts of the world. However, the amount of scrap steel currently available is only enough to meet a quarter of the global demand. The second effort gaining more traction in the trend towards sustainability is the transition to more sustainable steelmaking.

What is green steel?

The good news is that both from steel companies themselves and steel customers have a generally positive attitude towards a change in the steel industry. There are many good initiatives, but the challenge is that there isn’t really a clear definition of sustainably produced steel.

Today, the term “green steel” is commonly used to describe more sustainably produced steel. But what really is green steel?

Green steel refers to the strategy aimed at making the steelmaking process greener and more sustainable. But the trend towards increased sustainability within the steelmaking process is not without its difficulties. Many companies have begun to promote their steel as “green” when, in practice, giving this production process green accreditation presents as many problems as it does opportunities. The term “green steel” is often used to describe a product that does not meet any pre-defined criteria.


Why is it important to find out what green steel means?

Today, companies can claim their steel is green even if the contribution to CO2 reduction is negligible, or offers no benefits whatsoever. The promise of green steel can remain if, for example, a mere 10 percent of the total process output is green while the remaining 90 percent of production output is as dirty as ever. Uncomfortable facts can be omitted at a time when there’s an urgent need to combat climate change.

“Everyone buying and using products containing steel has the right to see the facts behind climate change promises. Green statements are not enough,” says Johan Anderson, Market Development at SSAB. The responsibility of the steel industry is not just to remove the carbon footprint, but also to show exactly how it’s done.”

On a positive note, customers and end-users have started to request numbers and facts to a much higher extent, putting higher pressure on steelmakers.

“Customer demand for zero-emission products is real. It encourages and pushes us as steelmakers to go all the way, virtually eliminating the product’s carbon footprint,” says Johan Anderson, Market Development at SSAB.

The responsibility of the steel industry is not just to remove the carbon footprint, but also to show exactly how it’s done.

Johan Anderson, Market development, SSAB


When sourcing a steel supplier, the importance of not accepting a green steel label at face value, investigating what is behind that label and requesting scientific proof to support it, cannot be understated.

How can you find out if a product really is “green”?

  1. Make sure you find out what’s behind the “green steel” statement, including choice of report methods or key figures.
  2. Request scientific methods for CO2 intensity reporting directly from the suppliers, with a clear description of the value-chain covered, i.e. an Environmental Product Declaration.
  3. Before you decide to buy a product, scrutinize and compare it to high-rated alternatives.


Why is fossil-free steel the real “green” solution?

Since an official definition of green steel doesn’t exist, it’s only the technology and process development that are able to provide proof that a certain steel is sustainable.

SSAB’s fossil-free steel making technology HYBRIT® has virtually no CO2 footprint, which makes it a real environmental game changer.

The revolutionizing technique is all about water. The water is split into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is used to remove the oxygen in the iron ore, which creates water. The water is returned to the process as a raw material to produce hydrogen. This creates a natural, closed cycle. No polluted water is being discharged, no carbon dioxide is emitted and the coal stays in the ground where it belongs.

3 reasons why fossil-free steel is the real "green" alternative

  • The process involves no fossil fuels or CO2 emissions. In traditional steelmaking, the main source of CO2 emissions comes from the use of coal and coke to remove oxygen from iron ore. By replacing this with a direct reduction process using hydrogen, coal is completely removed from the equation.
  • The only by-product is water – and even that’s debatable. When hydrogen replaces coal as a reduction agent, the only by-product is water instead of carbon dioxide. And even then, it’s not really a by-product, since the water is used to produce more hydrogen, thus creating a closed cycle.
  • Paves the way for complete CO2 elimination. If the hydrogen used in the reduction process has been produced with fossil-free electricity, in other words, green hydrogen, then virtually all CO2 emissions from production have been eliminated making it a truly fossil-free steel.
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Emissions reductions in the steel industry - A guideline on green steel

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HYBRIT®. A new revolutionary steelmaking technology.

With HYBRIT® technology, SSAB aims to be the first steel company in the world to bring fossil-free steel to the market already in 2026 and largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from our own operations in around 2030. Together with our partners and customers, SSAB aims to create a fossil-free value chain, from the mine to the end-product.

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