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Four global firms collaborate on carbon capture in the steel industry

October 27, 2022 - ArcelorMittal, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, BHP and Mitsubishi Development Pty. Ltd. are collaborating on a multi-year trial of Heavy Industry’s carbon capture technology with ArcelorMittal. The four parties signed a funding agreement and will conduct a feasibility and design study to support progress to full-scale deployment.

The agreement, which involves a trial at ArcelorMittal’s steel plant in Gent, Belgium, and another site in North America, brings together the expertise of the various partners in identifying ways to enhance carbon capture and utilization and/or storage (CCUS) technologies in steelmaking. 

The industry is estimated to account for around 7 to 9 percent of global greenhouse gas   emissions. CCUS has the potential to be a key technology for reducing emissions from existing blast furnaces, which are anticipated to remain a significant portion of steel production over coming decades. The International Energy Agency estimates CCUS technology needs to apply to more than 53 percent of primary steel production by 2050, equivalent to 700 million tons per year of carbon dioxide, for the Net Zero Emissions scenario.

There are no full scale operational CCUS facilities in blast furnace steelmaking operations at present, with only a limited number of small capacity carbon capture or utilization pilots underway or in the planning phases. ArcelorMittal Gent will soon commission its Steelanol project, a scale demonstration plant that will capture carbon-rich process gases from the blast furnace and convert them into ethanol. 

To further understand how carbon capture technology can be incorporated into existing steel plants, ArcelorMittal is facilitating the trial at its 5 million metric ton steel plant in Gent, Belgium, and at another location in North America. Mitsubishi Engineering will supply its proprietary technology and supporting the engineering studies. BHP and Mitsubishi Development, as key suppliers of high-quality steelmaking raw materials to ArcelorMittal’s European operations, will fund the trial, which is expected to run for several years.

In Gent, the trial will have two phases. The first phase involves separating and capturing the CO2 top gas from the blast furnace at a rate of around 300kg of CO2 a day. This represents a technical challenge due to the differing levels of contaminants in the top gas. The second phase involves testing the separating and capture of CO2 from the off-gases in the hot strip mill reheating furnace, which burns a mixture of industrial gases including coke gas, blast furnace gases and natural gas.

The parties plan to install the mobile test unit in one of ArcelorMittal’s North American direct reduced iron (DRI) plants, to test Mitsubishi Engineering’s technology in this steelmaking route.

“The decarbonization of the steel industry is a huge challenge that we cannot solve alone: it is through pan-industry partnerships and collaboration that we will achieve ArcelorMittal’s climate goals of reducing CO2 emissions by 35 percent by 2030 in Europe, and by 30 percent by 2030 worldwide,” stated ArcelorMittal Belgium’s CEO, Manfred Van Vlierberghe.

“We are developing two routes to decarbonize steelmaking: Smart Carbon and Innovative DRI,” he said. “The Smart Carbon route allows us to integrate carbon capture and reuse or storage technologies, capturing carbon emitted during the steelmaking process.”

Carbon capture activities are the largest cost component of the CCUS value chain and represent roughly two-thirds of the total capital cost and are the greatest consumer of additional energy. Improved understanding of carbon capture technology performance, cost, risk and sustainability outcomes are essential to determine its role in efforts to decarbonize the steel industry.

Mitsubishi Engineering has been developing its proprietary KM CDR Process for CO2 capture in collaboration with Kansai Electric Power since 1990 and, as of October 2022, it has delivered 14 plants globally and two more are under construction.

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