The Swedish company SSAB has succeeded in eliminating the use of fossil fuels in steel production entirely, starting with the iron ore mining process. The firm plans to be producing on an industrial scale by 2026.
If someone talks to you about cars and pollution, you probably think first of vehicle emissions, and possibly batteries, but rarely of the environmental impact of key materials like steel. Yet every step in the production of cars has an environmental footprint. Swedish firm SSAB plans to make car manufacturing and many other industries greener with the first-ever “fossil-free” steel.
The innovation is part of the Hybrit program, a collaboration between the companies SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall to create a more environmentally friendly production line. Traditionally, steel is created from iron ore, lime and coke (almost pure carbon made from coal). To reduce the environmental impact, SSAB has replaced coke with green hydrogen and uses electric arc furnaces.
Industrial-scale production in five years
The entire production chain has been designed to eliminate fossil fuels, as the furnaces as well as the hydrogen electrolyzers run on renewable energy. Even the mining operations that supply the iron ore are involved. SSAB preferred to use the term “fossil-free” rather than “green” steel, a term that has no official definition.
Car manufacturer Volvo, which aims to be climate neutral by 2050, has received the first shipment of the fossil-free steel. SSAB has announced that it will start industrial-scale production as early as 2026, and had previously announced that it was aiming for entirely fossil-free production by 2045.