How the hydrogen revolution can help save the planet — and how it can’t (Nature)

November 17, 2022

Originally published by Nature on 16 November

The white-hot river of liquid iron never stops. Every hour of the day and night, at this steel plant in Sweden’s far north, the metal pours out of a hole at the bottom of a massive, 90-metre-tall blast furnace. Equally relentless, a stream of carbon dioxide belches out of the top.

The CO2 is a waste product of the coal that the blast furnace devours. For every tonne of iron that will go to make steel, this furnace produces 1.6 tonnes of CO2, says Martin Pei, chief technology officer at SSAB, the company that owns the plant here in Luleå. The world has hundreds of similar blast furnaces, most of them with larger emissions. Add other energy-intensive steps in the industry, and it becomes clear how steel-making causes 7% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, comparable to the exhaust from all the world’s passenger vehicles combined, by some estimates.

But a few hundred metres away from the Luleå furnace is a smaller one that makes iron with much less carbon pollution. This pilot technology replaces coal with hydrogen, and releases only water vapour. “This is the new way to make steel, and with this, we can in principle eliminate all the carbon dioxide,” Pei says.

For the full version of this article, visit Nature.