Without wanting to sound like a steel nerd - guilty! - I think any discussion of steel decarbonisation (which is a valid and worthy goal) needs to take into account practical limitations on scrap recycling.

You cannot make some of the highest quality steels from recycled steel/scrap, without significant investments in scrap recycling supply chains.

If you jumble up the scrap after collection, it becomes very hard to separate out different metals. (This introduces costs after EAF steel making to purge/control different elements). The industry calls this secondary metallurgy.

But there are some metals - such as copper - that do not come out easily/economically.

As a result, scrap-based EAF steel making isn’t suitable for all end uses. (Including high end steels for aviation or defence applications - or auto manufacturing). Whereas cheaper commodity construction steels can be and often are made from scrap.

People of good will are working towards solutions but steel is a hard to abate industry for a reason.

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Hi Hanna. Great article. If you want to learn more about hydroge, you can have a look to my Newsletter. One comment though, H2 Green Steel is not in the Baltics, but in the Nordics, most concretely in Boden, a town from North of Sweden.

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How this might work for a single "blast furnace"?

Apparently a large blast furnace in Europe produces 4 million tons of steel per year.

That would require 16TWh per year.

Good dry areas (Mediterranean, Australia etc) can provide 2000KWh per KWp.

So the "blast furnace" would need a 8GW solar farm. The electrolysis equipment would work at the same capacity factor as the solar, which may push up financing costs.

This is perhaps an opportunity for Australia. The largest iron ore producing area in the world is Pilbara. Which also happens to be mostly empty desert, just inside the tropics. They could put the "blast furnace" next to the iron ore mine and make some savings on transport costs.

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Is all of this necessary? There are so many opportunities for easy decarbonization in other countries, that all of this has some religious flavor. In my view we will be emitting CO2 for the forseeable future, including natural gas backup for electricity.

The priority are carbon taxes and custom duties, and of course if this kind of technology becomes reasonably economic, it can be deployed. Now there is plenty of Low Hanging Fruit.

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If something is not economically viable, then it does not matter whether it is technologically possible.

Increasing global electricity production by one-third just to make very expensive steel is a terrible idea. And doing it exclusively with wind and solar is even worse.

Applying this logic to the entire world economy is guaranteed to bring material progress to a halt.

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Kris De Decker, who wrote a very similar article on Green Steel just 9 days ago, thinks the scrap problem is much bigger than you acknowledge in one sentence ➜ https://solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2024/03/how-to-escape-from-the-iron-age/

> The solution seems obvious: let’s produce all that steel in electric arc furnaces. However, this is impossible. There’s not enough scrap available: the continuous growth of the global steel output makes a circular flow of resources impossible. It takes decades before most steel becomes available for recycling. For example, there is 543 Mt of steel stocked in ships. The scrap available for recycling in 2021 corresponds to the production level of 1965 when global steel production was less than one-quarter of what it is today (450 Mt). Consequently, the other three quarters need to be produced in blast furnaces using coal and freshly mined iron ore.

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Thank you for highlighting the rather staggering challenge of decarbonizing steel production.

One detail that puzzles me is your remark about green steel from hydrogen being "more efficient" than traditional coal-based production. I can see how you arrived at this comparison but I'm not convinced it's meaningful, because we're comparing the "efficiency" of using such different inputs (electricity vs. coal). When we have two different ways of using the same energy source to produce the same product or service, efficiency is unambiguous and unambiguously good. But when we're starting with different energy sources, there are ambiguities in defining efficiency and I don't see why efficiency should even be a criterion in choosing between the sources. The criteria that matter are cost, CO2 emissions, and any other environmental impacts.

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Very interesting, thanks. I've written a bit about the opportunity in green steel and your point about low electricity prices is very pertinent. Countries such as Sweden have an advantage that will be hard to replicate elsewhere in the world. https://carbonrisk.substack.com/p/an-iron-will

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1.3T is just for the steel plants, right? What are the capital costs for the additional electricity production?

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Yes - decarbonizing steel is a serious business. Perhaps you would be interested in reading a short article "Decarbonizing Steel", I have written on "substack.com/@villypetersen" about the same subject, but viewed from a slightly different angle.

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Mar 30·edited Mar 30

Couldn't we get most of the benefit by using methane, natural gas, instead of coking coal? That already exists at scale and is cheap compared to electrolysed hydrogen or direct electrolysis smelting. Economics matter: just look at the farmer protests in the EU. And we shouldn't just sit on our hands waiting for electricity to get cheap enough.

Using current production numbers is understating the scale of the problem. If the "developing" world is to actually develop inside of five centuries, we need to increase production rates. And as Gregor Gross points out, talking about scrap is just a distraction. The issue is converting a stock of iron ore into a stock of steel in infrastructure, buildings, vehicles, and equipment.

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We need an Oppenheimer and Manhattan Project for green technology.

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Using thermal energy can reduce electricity demand for hydrogen production.

Is something similar possible for steel production? Can you reduce hydrogen and electricity consumption by pre-heating the ore and scrap, e.g. with heat from high temperature reactors?

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Thank you for sharing this. Great perspective on green steel made 2 different ways. If we could utilize the heat created in the furnaces for melting the steel as well as the hydrogen electrolysis process to heat homes and buildings with a district energy system, we could offset the energy requirement in different sectors at the same time.

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Hi Hanna, the inexpensive clean electricity is available - and hopefully - coming to the EU through the EC soon as an offer to come has been extended and accepted.

I'm also looking for an avenue (person) that will listen with in the UK and Scotland so that it can also benefit.

Good article.

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Low electricity prices can be relatively easily achieved with nuclear power plants sited adjacent to an industrial consumer such as a steel refinery. This reduces taxes, transmission costs, and a host of fees that utility companies are mandated to add. The cost of nuclear power can be as little as $0.03/kWh, as it was in the (inflation-adjusted) past. This will require factory production of power plant units. ThorCon is developing low-cost power plants to be produced serially in shipyards, to cost $1/watt in production. Some of this information is in my new book, New Nuclear is HOT!, and at thorconpower.com.

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Hi Robert, not right now they can't. Nuclear power plants take a decade to build and produce massively over priced electricity. I think we agree that is partly a consequence of relying on over engineered pressurised water designs.

In future, it might be that molten salt reactors will be - to rephrase your earlier book - "cheaper than solar", and hopefully Thorcon or others can make that happen.

Until then, solar in the right locations is already below $0.03/KWh. Admittedly this is intermittent, but if this is for hydrogen production for steel making, does this matter?

Best wishes to the Thorcon team.

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