BlueScope Steel and Rio Tinto announce ‘green steel’ partnership

BlueScope Steel and Rio Tinto have agreed to begin exploring methods of decarbonising the steel-making process — including setting up Australia's first 'green steel' plant. 

Key points:Bluescope Steel partners with Rio Tinto to explore 'green steel' at Port KemblaThe companies sign a Memorandum of Understanding to investigate replacing coking coal with hydrogen to produce steelBluescope is assessing the scale of Australia's first 'green steel' pilot plant

The companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to investigate the production of low-emissions iron feed using hydrogen.

The hydrogen will be produced using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels — known as 'green hydrogen'.

The announcement is one of the strongest signals yet that Australia's largest steel producer is planning for a future without coal.

"BlueScope's goal is net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 for our global operations," BlueScope chief executive Mark Vassella said.

"This complements the target we set in 2018 to reduce the emissions intensity of our global steel-making operations by 12 per cent by 2030."

a man in a grey suit smiling
Bluescope CEO Mark Vassella says decarbonising steel production will require "broad support from governments".(ABC News: Kelly Fuller)

Rio Tinto is Bluescope’s largest supplier of iron ore and has also committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

“We realise that, to get there, we need to investigate multiple pathways and strike partnerships across the steel value chain,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Simon Trott said.

Pilot 'green steel' plant

BlueScope has enjoyed a record-breaking year amid soaring demand for its steel products both domestically and abroad.

It has committed to spend $150 million over five years to decarbonise its operations.

Initially, the steel-maker will begin assessing the scale of a 'green steel' pilot project at Port Kembla — consisting of a hydrogen electrolyser, direct reduction equipment and a melter.

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A Rio Tinto iron ore train, stretching for up to 3 kilometres, passes through a level crossing.
A Rio Tinto iron ore train passes through a level crossing in the Pilbara on its way to port.(ABC News: Rachel Pupazzoni)

The NSW government recently announced a $3 billion roadmap for developing a 'green hydrogen' industry.

It claimed that the first green steel pilot project to be built in the Asia/Pacific would qualify for the funding.

"This is an important program — one which will need broad support from governments, regulators, customers and suppliers," Mr Vassella said.

Despite a number of zero-emissions steel projects emerging abroad, BlueScope still believes it will be decades before it replaces current steel-making methods.

The company is in the process of relining one of its blast furnaces — a highly expensive project expected to cost up to $800 million.

However, the steel-maker is exploring short-term emissions reduction options — such as replacing the use of coal in the blast furnace with charcoal from logging and construction waste.

Posted 29 Oct 202129 Oct 2021Fri 29 Oct 2021 at 5:03amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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