SSAB plans to accelerate its fossil-free steel conversion by 15 years

As evidenced by the dispatches that follow, the race for climate-neutral vehicles is shifting into high gear. SSAB’s Board has taken a policy decision to fundamentally transform Nordic strip production and accelerate the company’s green transition. The decision was taken against the background of strongly growing demand for fossil-free steel.

How will SSAB become fossil-free so fast?

The plan is to replace the existing system with new mini-mill technology, which will result in a broader product program and improved cost position. The ambition is to largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions around 2030, 15 years earlier than previously announced. However, to achieve this ambition, the necessary infrastructure, access to fossil-free electricity in particular, must be in place in time.

Existing sites will be replaced by mini-mills, which offer multiple advantages, including:

  • A more highly evolved “dimensional program” to further improve tolerances for automotive steels.
  • Significantly shorter lead times through more efficient production.
  • Increased flexibility to respond to business fluctuations.
  • Increased capacity and broader mix of Docol® AHSS/UHSS automotive grades.
  • Lower costs.
  • And, of course, the elimination of carbon dioxide costs, as SSAB’s old blast furnaces are decommissioned.
Rahe works from air

Aerial view of SSAB’s Raahe steelworks. Under the new plan, Luleå and Raahe will be transformed into cost-effective mini-mills, with electric arc furnaces and rolling mills. Borlänge and Hämeenlinna will be further developed in line with the new production processes.

Our customers are demanding fossil-free products from SSAB. We can solve the technical challenges and we have a strong financial position.

Martin Lindqvist, SSAB CEO

“Our customers are demanding fossil-free products from SSAB. We can solve the technical challenges and we have a strong financial position. If we can resolve the question of power supply and environmental permits together with society, then we can make the transition 15 years earlier than the plan communicated previously. We can finance the plan through our own cash flow and resulting in a broader product program and improved cost position,” says Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB. Read the full news release regarding SSAB’s accelerated fossil-free plans.

The world’s first fossil-free steel vehicle: a Volvo Group autonomous mining load carrier
The world’s first fossil-free steel vehicle: a Volvo Group autonomous mining load carrier

Hydrogen-reduced iron from HYBRIT’s pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden was used to make the world’s first fossil-free steel vehicle: a Volvo Group autonomous mining load carrier.

The first vehicle made with fossil-free steel already exists

The world’s first vehicle made using SSAB’s fossil-free steel was unveiled on October 13, 2021 by the Volvo Group. It’s not a car, but a load carrier used for mining and quarrying.

At its introduction, Volvo Group President and CEO, Martin Lundstedt, said, “Volvo Group is committed to developing attractive, safe and efficient new vehicles and machines that pave the way for a more sustainable transport and infrastructure system adopted to the future.”

“The green transition is possible and brings results,” noted Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO of SSAB. “For example, the mechanical properties and performance of our fossil-free steels are the same as our existing grades. Their forming into parts is the same. The only difference is one steelmaking method is sustainable and the other is not.”

A climate-neutral passenger car by 2030

The Polestar 0 Project aims to build a climate-neutral car by eliminating emissions from its entire supply chain. The collaboration between Swedish electric car company Polestar and SSAB will explore all possibilities for using SSAB’s clean, direct reduction iron (DRI via green hydrogen) steel. This includes using fossil-free steel to both replace conventional automotive steel, as well as other high-carbon footprint materials.

As The Drive magazine points out, “Polestar aims to build a ‘truly climate-neutral’ car by 2030 by actually altering the way the car is manufactured rather than carbon offsetting by planting trees.”

Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar’s CEO, notes that SSAB, “…is showing the way in manufacturing quality steel without carbon dioxide emissions. SSAB’s solutions will be invaluable in helping Polestar decarbonize our manufacturing processes and the materials we use.”

Polestar’s approach will bring collaboration across the entire automobile development process and its value chain – from its suppliers all the way to its retailers. “Polestar,” continues The Drive, “doesn’t seem like the company…[to] keep any truly significant breakthroughs that come out of this project to itself.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has also launched a partnership with SSAB, using its fossil-free steel for body shells by 2023. The eventual Mercedes-Benz goal is to make its entire value chain carbon-dioxide neutral.

Polestar 0 project

Zero carbon emissions, from cradle-to-gate, is the goal of the 2030 Polestar 0 Project.

Green steel is for Tier 1’s, too

Faurecia, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of automotive components, is leading the quest for sustainable mobility — from making hydrogen storage tanks for vehicles to what it calls the “Cockpit of the Future — a connected, personalized and predictive cockpit.”

Faurecia is the first automotive industry supplier to explore the potentials of SSAB’s fossil-free steels, targeting 2026 for building its seat structures from fossil-free, advanced high strength steels (AHSSs). “Faurecia, for some time, has focused on AHSS steels to make their car components stronger, lighter and safer,” notes SSAB’s Lindqvist.

“This is a major step in our CO2 neutrality journey for Scope 3 emissions,” says Patrick Koller, Faurecia CEO.

This is a major step in our CO2 neutrality journey for Scope 3 emissions

Patrick Koller, Faurecia CEO

Seat structure

Faurecia was already using Docol® AHSS steels when it announced a 2026 target for a fossil-free car seat structure.

An economist asks:

Can OEMs afford NOT to use green steel?

“If we're going to become a sustainable society, we need green supply chains and all our production has to be green,” says Fredrik N G Andersson, Associate Professor at Lund University.

“In my research, what I found is that when manufacturers face higher cost materials…they actually respond by becoming more efficient and more productive…

“The higher cost for sustainable materials, fossil free steel, isn't actually a cost to society…It becomes a benefit for society, not just for the environment – but also economically. Yes, becoming more sustainable and green is a huge cost – it’s a huge challenge. But if you're in the vanguard, you're the one who developed the new technology – and gained the new skills and knowledge – you have a huge competitive edge compared to everyone else.

“The conversion [to sustainable automotive materials] is technically possible. It is economically possible. It requires change from firms, from households, from policies. All that is possible. And societies change all the time.”

For background on how SSAB is making its virtually carbon-free steel, check out fossil-free steel and HYBRIT: the Power-Mine-Mill partnership that is far ahead in the hydrogen DRI steel production race.

Fredrik N G Andersson, economist

Fredrik N G Andersson, economist: “We all know that things currently aren’t sustainable…and that societies change all the time.”

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