A historic day: on 13th of October 2021 Volvo Group revealed the world’s first load carrier made with fossil-free steel. This is quite an achievement and that is why the celebration had many important guests from Volvo, EU and Sweden. This might be a step towards cleaner steel being available for larger industries. But how is it made?
Well, this technology, employed by SSAB company, is fairly new and quite expensive. So it will take some time until all the steel can be made in this way. Steel, which is definitely one of the pillars of our civilization, is basically an alloy of iron and carbon. There are many different kinds of steel, representing different properties for different purposes – modern metallurgy is honestly amazing. However, the basic common recipe requires a lot of heat, typically produced using natural gas or coal, and coal coke used to infuse carbon into iron. Naturally, the steel industry provides a huge gift of CO2 for the planet.
And that’s where the SSAB process is different. First of all, heat in this case is produced in electric rather than gas furnaces. Of course, electricity for these plants is produced in environmentally friendly plants. Secondly, instead of coal they are using hydrogen as a reductant. And the iron itself comes from clean, sustainable mining operations. The result is steel, production of which is basically CO2-neutral. And very expensive.
SSAB is not planning to immediately switch to green steel exclusively. It will take some time. At first SSAB is planning to start producing its fossil-free steel at scale in 2026. Getting rid of the old-fashioned environmentally-damaging steel will take decades. Volvo is planning that in 2050 its entire business, including the supply chain, will be neutral to the climate. It is an ambitious goal and it will require cleanly-produced steel.
Of course, fossil-free steel features the same quality as the traditional one. It is just more expensive due to hydrogen and sustainable electricity both being rather expensive. This process is also slower, but this is bound to change in the future when full-scale production is launched.
Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO at SSAB, said: “Having the world´s first actual vehicle made using SSAB´s fossil-free steel is a true milestone. Our collaboration with Volvo Group shows that green transition is possible and brings results. Together, we will continue reducing climate impact all the way to the end customer while ensuring that our customers get high-quality steel. We look forward to continuing to work with Volvo Group in research and development to produce more fossil-free steel products.”
The world will switch to electric mobility, but it is not enough to have cars with no exhaust system. We need to make sure that their entire lifespan – from manufacturing to recycling – is clean. And sustainable steel is the way to do it.
Source: Volvo Group