British Steel is conducting a major study into the use of green hydrogen in the company’s drive to decarbonise its operations and manufacture net-zero steel.
The steelmaker, which is collaborating with EDF UK, UCL (University College London) and the Materials Processing Institute, has pledged to deliver net-zero steel by 2050 and significantly reduce its CO2 intensity by 2030 and 2035.
To support its ambitious plans, it has secured funding from the UK Government for a feasibility study into switching from natural gas to green hydrogen as a fuel source for re-heating furnaces.
If the study is successful, British Steel will undertake an industrial-scale demonstration, which could see the technology developed and rolled out across all its operations including its main manufacturing base in Scunthorpe. It could also be adopted by other UK steelmakers.
British Steel’s Environment & Sustainability Director, Lee Adcock, said: "As an energy intensive industry with hard to abate emissions, the steel industry offers the potential for large CO2 emission savings through fuel switching from natural gas to hydrogen. This study is, therefore, a vital and hugely exciting step on our journey to developing the technology needed to transform the way we, and other steel manufacturers, operate.
"We’re extremely grateful for the government’s support and look forward to working with our partners to reduce the carbon intensity of our operations, enabling us to manufacture the clean, green steel society needs."
British Steel won funding for the research from the UK Government’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP). The NZIP funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) provides funding for low-carbon technologies and systems. Decreasing the costs of decarbonisation, the Portfolio will help enable the UK to end its contribution to climate change. With its partners, British Steel is now undertaking a 6-month study based on operations at its Teesside Beam Mill.
The study links into the Tees Green Hydrogen project – a pioneering scheme that will use green electricity from the nearby Teesside Offshore Wind Farm along with a new solar farm, which EDF Renewables UK intends to construct near Redcar, to power its hydrogen electrolyser. Tees Green Hydrogen will supply local business customers with hydrogen to support decarbonisation efforts and a significant reduction in industrial pollution.
British Steel’s Head of R&D Dr Gari Harris said: "As part of the feasibility study, EDF UK R&D will carry out a technoeconomic assessment of the methodology and practicality of delivery of green hydrogen for fuel switching into the steel manufacturing process, and British Steel will assess the technical implications of the fuel switch on both product and process.
"Together the partners will carry out an assessment of the economic viability and environmental impact of switching from natural gas to hydrogen in defined aspects of steel manufacturing. The Materials Processing Institute and UCL will also play a role in aiding in the assessment of the product and process viability for British Steel."
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: "As we accelerate the UK’s energy independence by boosting clean, home-grown, affordable energy, it’s crucial that our industries reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
"This investment will help them to not only cut emissions, but also save money on energy bills, on top of supporting jobs by encouraging green innovation across in the UK."
Patrick Dupeyrat, R&D Director of EDF UK, said: "Decarbonisation of steel production is essential for Britain to achieve Net Zero. We are delighted to be working with British Steel and the Materials Processing Institute in this important project which will play a major role in reducing emissions initially at British Steel’s plant in Teesside area, with the possibility of replication elsewhere in Britain and globally.
"This innovative study links into the Tees Green Hydrogen project led by EDF Renewables UK and Hynamics which will be one of the first of its kind in England, powered using green electricity from our Teesside offshore wind farm and our proposed new Tees solar plant.
“Exciting and ambitious projects like these are critical for the future of not only steel making, but also for the future of Teesside. We will not only preserve jobs, but create new ones, making Tees Valley industry more sustainable and competitive for the future."
Tristan Zipfel, EDF Renewables UK Director of Strategy and Analysis, said: “We are delighted the Government has backed the consortium bid awarding funding for the study to decarbonise steel manufacturing operations at British Steel.
"Our Tees Green Hydrogen and Tees Solar project is leading the way in supporting the Tees Valley to become a clean energy powerhouse – the go-to place for innovation and expertise in the hydrogen sector.
"The green hydrogen we produce locally will power this ambitious, world-leading study, breaking new ground in Teesside in a historic industry. This will result in greater investment; new, high-salaried green jobs; and, a more sustainable, cleaner future locally."
Dr Yukun Hu, Associate Professor of Infrastructure Systems at UCL, said: "We are delighted to hear about the Industrial Fuel Switching Phase 1 project for green hydrogen in steel manufacture and look forward to working with British Steel.
"If the project is successful, the net-zero emission solution for steel heating proposed in this project will bring a major development to the steel industry and directly contribute to the UK’s target of carbon neutral iron and steelmaking."
Mark Allan, Industrial Decarbonisation Group Manager at the Materials Processing Institute, said: "This is a great project to be part of, it’s exactly the kind of industrial scale thinking that needs to become reality if we have a chance of reversing emissions and still keeping a manufacturing industry.
"The Materials Processing Institute research team will be supporting the project with a new computational fluid dynamics model for hydrogen combustion in heating furnaces, allied to our extensive experience of integrating new technologies into existing high volume high temperature processes and managing transitions from development models to commercial reality.
"We can bring carbon emissions down in the short term by smarter controls but a proper deep decarbonisation needs a radical change, and hydrogen is a crucial option to get to grips with. We developed the Hydrogen CFD model under the Innovate UK PRISM programme with just this kind of project in mind, and it is really exciting to be part of the vision for decarbonising a massive scale operation like the Beam Mill."
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: "Steelmaking is in the blood of every Teessider and for generations steelmaking in Teesside has been at the forefront of innovation. This announcement by British Steel shows how the industry locally is still at the cutting edge, and how it is developing new technology to embrace our low carbon future.
"Across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool we’re pioneering hydrogen production and the cleaner, safer and healthier industries of tomorrow so there is no better place to do this research.
"Its collaboration with brilliant local research centre, the Materials Processing Institute, will add a wealth of experience and knowledge to this ever-growing sector and further position our region as the place to be for ground-breaking clean energy schemes."
British Steel’s Low-Carbon Roadmap
British Steel’s ambition is for low-embedded carbon steel production with a phased reduction of CO2 intensity by 2035 and 2050. Our Low-Carbon Roadmap will deliver net-zero steel by 2050 and significantly reduce our CO2 intensity by 2030 and 2035. We will adopt a science-based target (SBTi) in order to validate the reductions achieved to keep global warming well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. You can read more details here.