In a revolutionary partnership, steelmaker BlueScope is joining forces with iron ore producers Rio Tinto and BHP to decarbonize the production of steel – only without the use of carbon capture.
Steel production is a notoriously hard-to-abate sector with a high emissions intensity, and one way to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint is by equipping facilities with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
Namely, the three companies announced their plan to make iron ore from Australia’s Pilbara region suitable for direct reduced iron (DRI) processes.
The process of making DRI is an alternative to using regular blast furnaces that rely on coal, and instead typically uses natural gas.
Furthermore, the technology is already well-established in places like the Middle East, where coal is not a naturally occuring resource, and modern DRI providers say their equipment can run on green hydrogen instead of natural gas, paving the way to green steel making.
In the case of BlueScope, making the switch to DRI-electric arc furnace (EAF) does not come without its share of challenges, though, and these include securing access to green hydrogen and a higher grade of iron ore than is mainly found in Pilbara.
The company’s Australia chief executive Tania Archibald commented on the need to create a commercially viable alternative to blast furnace steel making: “This is a major opportunity for Australia on a global scale as the broader steel industry seeks to decarbonise.”
Some experts have seen this partnership as an opportunity to point at Rio Tinto’s and BHP’s lack of Scope 3 emissions targets, and say it is all the more reason for both companies to set such targets now.