POSCO, one of the world’s largest steel producers, is embarking on a journey towards more sustainable steel production in Australia. In a bid to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the company is exploring the possibility of producing HBI (Hot Briquetted Iron) using green hydrogen.
HBI is a processed product made by removing oxygen from iron ore and molding reduced iron into a briquette shape. It plays a vital role in producing high-quality steel when operating electric furnaces. The traditional method of producing HBI involves using natural gas as a reducing agent. However, POSCO aims to transition to a greener, more sustainable method.
In partnership with the French energy company Engie, POSCO will conduct a pre-feasibility study for a green hydrogen project. Green hydrogen is produced through a process called electrolysis, using renewable energy sources to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This method ensures clean hydrogen production with zero carbon emissions.
The feasibility study will assess the possibility of using green hydrogen to power the HBI plant in Port Hedland, Australia. The plan is to replace natural gas with green hydrogen as the reducing agent in the production of HBI. This transition is significant because it eliminates the need to burn coal to separate oxygen from iron ore, reducing carbon emissions.
POSCO’s motivation for adopting greener methods is clear. The company is known for its blast furnace-based steel production, which is associated with significant greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon. By increasing the use of electricity and transitioning to green hydrogen, POSCO aims to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
This initiative aligns with Western Australia’s focus on exploring the use of renewable energy in the resources sector. Minister for Minerals, Petroleum, and Energy Bill Johnstone expressed his support, stating that the feasibility study is an important step towards a clean energy future. He believes that local HBI production in Western Australia will play a crucial role in advancing hydrogen reduction steelmaking.
Hydrogen reduction steelmaking uses hydrogen as a reducing agent to create HBI, which is then melted in an electric furnace to produce molten iron. Western Australia is a significant player in the global iron ore supply, accounting for 38% of the world’s total. Producing reduced iron using renewable hydrogen has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions on a global scale, making iron production more eco-friendly.
POSCO has been planning to produce HBI in Australia since last year and has been conducting feasibility studies. The company’s establishment of ‘T Hedland Green Steel,’ a subsidiary based in Port Hedland, Western Australia, highlights its commitment to exploring clean hydrogen in the HBI production process.
POSCO’s ambitious goal is to invest 30 to 40 trillion won in the development of hydrogen reduction steel technology and to commercialize it by 2050. This move represents a significant step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly steel production process.