Hydrogen can be a Clean Alternative in the Steel Industry

The Hydrogen direct reduction steelmaking (HYBRIT) is an eco-friendly steel manufacturing method in which carbon dioxide (CO2) is not generated and water (H2O) is generated by using hydrogen (H2) as a reducing agent instead of coal used in the existing steel manufacturing method. Hydrogen is a highly explosive gas and is difficult to handle stably even at high temperatures. Therefore, the method of using hydrogen as a reducing agent requires a very high-level technique. The method is recognized as a future technology because it does not generate carbon dioxide, the main culprit of global warming, but has yet to be applied due to the lack of related technologies and difficulties in procuring large amounts of hydrogen to be used in steel manufacturing. For commercialization, it is necessary to research and develop and demonstrate hydrogen reduction steel technology, realize industrial hydrogen unit prices, and establish a supply chain.

In Korea, the steel industry has launched the development of “hydrogen reduction steel technology” to develop fundamental CO2 reduction technology while maintaining the world’s top facility competitiveness, as existing technologies such as waste heat recovery and energy efficiency improvement are only possible. The production of steel products is largely carried out through the iron (furnace) → steel → rolling stage, and iron ore and coal are used to make metal in the furnace. Iron ore exists in the form of oxides bonded with oxygen, such as red iron light (Fe2O3) and magnetic iron light (Fe3O4) in natural state, and coal is used as a reducing agent to reduce this. In the process, fossil fuels, coal (C), are burning, inevitably emitting greenhouse gases.

Hydrogen reduction steel technology utilizes some hydrogen (H2) (up to 10%) instead of coal (C), which is previously used as a reducing agent. Since this technology uses hydrogen instead of coal, it emits water (H2O) instead of CO2, which can reduce CO2 emissions by more than 15% compared to the existing carbon reduction process. 22 industry-academic consortiums, including POSCO and Hyundai Steel, are participating in the commercialization of this technology and are pushing to develop technologies for three detailed tasks (e.g., furnace, hydrogen amplification) to reduce greenhouse gases across the steel industry.

Converting the steel industry to hydrogen-reducing steel means converting not only steel but also all manufacturing ecosystems. Therefore, government-level finance, tax support, and R&D national policy promotion should follow.


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