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Thyssenkrupp tests hydrogen as coal replacement in its blast furnaces

13 November 2019

German steel producer Thyssenkrupp has begun testing hydrogen in a working blast furnace this week as a replacement for pulverised coal injection (PCI) as part of company plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Duisburg blast furnaces - Image: Thyssenkrupp
Duisburg blast furnaces - Image: Thyssenkrupp

In the first such test on an industrial scale, the company injected hydrogen into one of the 28 tuyeres (inlet pipes) of blast furnace 9 in Duisburg, Germany, in place of PCI. Thyssenkrupp aims to gradually use hydrogen in all 28 tuyeres of the blast furnace, then expanding its use to three other blast furnaces by 2022.

"We are doing pioneering work here. The use of hydrogen is the key lever for climate-neutral steel production," said the chairman of Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe, Premal Desai.

Burning hydrogen in the blast furnace generates water vapour instead of carbon dioxide when coal is used. Hydrogen is itself produced through water electrolysis and the company aims to source hydrogen produced with renewable energy.

Around 200kg of metallurgical coke and 300kg of PCI is needed to produce one tonne of pig iron in Thyssenkrupp's blast furnaces. It is already therefore possible to reduce the company's carbon emissions by 20% if hydrogen is rolled out as a PCI replacement, Thyssenkrupp said.

The conversion to hydrogen is being grant-aided by the North Rhine Westphalia regional government.

Following the conversion of its blast furnaces, the company plans to build large-scale direct reduction plants in the mid-2020s, which by then will be operating with hydrogen. The sponge iron they produce will initially be melted down in the existing blast furnaces, but in the long term will be processed into crude steel in electric arc furnaces using renewable energy.

Thyssenkrupp's long-term goal is to reduce the emissions of CO2 in the steel production process by at least 80% by 2050.

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