Inspenet, September 9, 2023.
It is the first plant in the world that generates hydrogen without emissions derived from fossil fuels for use in steel rolling, specifically in its initial heating. It has been inaugurated in Hofors, Sweden by Ovako, the prominent steel producer and one of the main recyclers of this material in northern Europe.
In the production of steel by hot rolling, it is essential to raise the temperature of the base material, such as ingots or plates, to a range between 1000 and 1300 °Celsius to ensure its suitable malleability for rolling. Historically, the heating process has been energy intensive and according to a 2020 report, less than 50% of the energy supplied to furnaces is actually used to heat steel efficiently .
Innovative electrolyzer system for steel rolling
The core of this plant lies in the 20 MW electrolyzer system provided by Nel ASA. These electrolyzers, belonging to Nel’s A Series, have the capacity to generate up to 3,880 Nm3/h of hydrogen, which is equivalent to a little more than 8 tons per day.
This hydrogen will play a dual role by being used to preheat steel at nearby facilities and as fuel for trucks equipped with fuel cells. In addition, the residual heat from the plant will be used for district heating.
“Today we begin a new chapter in this story. Previously, heating steel products required large amounts of fossil fuels. Today we are pioneers in using emission-free hydrogen for this task, reducing the emissions of this process to almost zero,” says Marcus Hedblom, President and CEO of the Ovako Group.
Contributing to the reduction of emissions
The impact of this plant extends beyond the steel industry, as it represents a technological solution with the potential to significantly reduce global emissions in various sectors.
Ovako has not been alone in realizing this project, as companies such as Volvo Group, Hitachi Energy, H2 Green Steel and Nel Hydrogen have been key collaborators. In addition, it received financial support and technical assistance from both the Swedish Energy Agency and the European Union.
Ovako’s future goal is clear: to carry out local hydrogen production in all its laminating facilities by 2030, provided that electricity from emission-free sources is available for the electrolysis process.