Fossil Fuel–Free ‘Green’ Steel Produced for the First Time

A Swedish consortium delivered the first batch of the metal—made using ‘green’ hydrogen—to an automobile manufacturer for truck production

Green Steel
Fossil fuel-free steel was made for the first time in Sweden using "green" hydrogen technology. Courtesy of SSAB

Steel production is the backbone of today’s modern economy. The human-made metal is used in just about everything—from bridges and buildings to cars and consumer goods.

However, the process to produce steel requires considerable energy, which is typically generated by burning of fossil fuels that produce copious carbon, contributing to the climate crisis.

Now there’s a “green” method for making the metal using a hybrid process powered by hydrogen, reports David Vetter for Forbes. A metal-making company in Sweden has produced the first fossil fuel-free steel in a trial process. SSAB made the metal for the Volvo Group to use for truck manufacturing.

The steel was produced using HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology), which uses electricity from renewable sources to create the clean-burning gas. With this process, hydrogen replaces fossil fuels both in the manufacture of iron pellets and carbon purification process, Forbes reports.

Fossil Fuel–Free 'Green' Steel Produced for the First Time
This candleholder was the first item made using "green" steel. SSAB Photo

“The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it represents proof that it’s possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry,” Martin Lindqvist, SSAB’s president and CEO, tells Anmar Frangoul of CNBC.

Producing steel without the use of fossil fuels could be a game-changer for the industry, which emits about nine percent of carbon dioxide worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency, global steel production is predicted to grow 33 percent by 2050, reports Fortune.

“I’m happy to be minister for enterprise and energy in a country where industry is bubbling with energy for a (green) reset,” Ibrahim Baylan, Sweden’s Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, says at a press conference, according to Helena Soderpalm for Reuters.

SSAB produced the first delivery of fossil fuel-free steel in a joint venture with the government-owned utility Vattenfall and LKAB, a Swedish mining company. The “green” steel was made in northern Sweden at a HYBRIT pilot plant, which is not expected to be fully operational for another five years, Reuters reports.

“The goal is to deliver fossil-free steel to the market and demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale as early as 2026,” SSAB officials say in a statement.

Another Swedish company is trying to beat SSAB to the punch, though. H2 Green Steel claims it will be in full production of fossil fuel-free steel at a sustainable hydrogen facility by 2024, CNBC reports.