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ArcelorMittal investigates hydrogen-based direct reduction of iron ore for steel production; CDA

To permanently reduce CO2 emissions, steelmaker ArcelorMittal has developed a low-emissions technology strategy, which targets not only the use of alternative feedstocks and the conversion of CO2 emissions, but also the direct avoidance of carbon (Carbon Direct Avoidance, CDA).

This year, the Group intends to launch a new project in the ArcelorMittal plant in Hamburg to use hydrogen on an industrial scale for the direct reduction of iron ore (H-DR) in the steel production process for the first time. (DRI is iron ore that has been reduced to iron with without melting.) A pilot plant is to be built in the coming years.

The Hamburg plant already has one of the most efficient production processes of the ArcelorMittal Group due to the use of natural gas in a direct reduction plant (DRI, direct reduced iron). The aim of the new hydrogen-based process is to be able to produce steel with the lowest CO2 emissions.

The project costs amount to around €65 million (US$73 million). In addition, a cooperation agreement with the University of Freiberg is planned to test the procedure in the coming years at the Hamburg plant premises. The hydrogen-based reduction of iron ore will initially take place on a demonstration scale with an annual production of 100,000 tonnes.

Our Hamburg site offers optimum conditions for this innovative project: an electric arc furnace with DRI system and iron ore pellets stockyard as well as decades of know-how in this area. The use of hydrogen as a reducing agent shall now be tested in a new shaft furnace.

—Frank Schulz, CEO of ArcelorMittal Germany

In the process, the separation of H2 with a purity of more than 95% from the top gas of the existing plant should be achieved by pressure swing adsorption. The process is first tested with grey hydrogen (generated at gas separation) to allow for economical operation. In the future, the plant should also be able to run on green hydrogen (generated from renewable sources) when it is available in sufficient quantities.

With the Hamburg hydrogen project, ArcelorMittal is advancing pioneering technology for direct CO2 avoidance as one of several potential pathways for low-emissions steelmaking. The Group is already investing more than €250 million (US$281 million) in various carbon emissions reduction technologies—for example in Ghent where waste carbon gases will be used for the production of alternative fuels or in chemical products.

Likewise, methods are tested in which biocoal from waste wood is used instead of coking coal as a reducing agent in the blast furnace.

With a production volume of 8 million tonnes crude steel, ArcelorMittal is among the largest steel producers in Germany. Its customers come from the automotive and construction industry, as well as from the packaging and household appliances sector.

The group runs four large production sites in the country. These are two fully integrated flat carbon sites in Bremen and Eisenhüttenstadt as well as two long carbon sites in Hamburg and Duisburg. Moreover the group has seven steel service centers and 16 distribution centers in the federal republic.


  • Valentin Vogl, Max Åhman, Lars J. Nilsson (2018) “Assessment of hydrogen direct reduction for fossil-free steelmaking,” Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 203, Pages 736-745 doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.08.279

  • Heihachi Kamura (1932) “Properties of Iron Made by the Process of Hydrogen Reduction” J. Electrochem. Soc. volume 62, issue 1, 283-296 doi: 10.1149/1.3493787



Another blow for those seeking to dismiss hydrogen.

Aside from any application to the vehicle sector, hydrogen and electrolyser technology will be major contributors to de-carbonisation.

And if you are producing renewable hydrogen in quantity anyway.........



I do not dismiss hydrogen. There are a number of important industrial uses for hydrogen. Direct Reduction of Iron may become an important one. On of the major current uses is light fuels from heavy oils. Unfortunately, almost all of of the hydrogen is currently made by steam reformation of natural gas. If excess wind energy ever exists and it was economical to use electrolysis to make hydrogen, this would be a better use of the hydrogen as opposed to try to use it to run fuel cells for transportation.


The realisation of this concept has been alluded to for several years so its very good to hear of a first proof project.
It would seem obvious that for a substantial percentage of the grid to be reliably delivered by renewables there will be times when large amounts of surplus generation will occur which will of course have an increasing suite of options for direct use.
Hydrogen from this source will have to compete and justify ' with demands from various others which we can assume will recognise ways to utilise the resource.
I think the most helpful consequence to today is that (as has been noted by the policy analysts) it gives a green light to large scale R.E. roll out.
We seem to be in a place where the RE marketplace sees no question of oversupply from any currently conceivable reality. That should be a very encouraging signal to a market that has been getting all the right signals already for some time.

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