image: Vattenfall

SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall have successfully piloted the production of the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron.

The HYBRIT initiative’s technological innovation captures approximately 90% of emissions associated with steelmaking, paving the way for fossil-free steel.

The HYBRIT pilot plant in Lule, Sweden has completed test production of sponge iron, demonstrating that it is viable to reduce iron ore using fossil-free hydrogen gas rather than coal and coke. Continuous and high-quality production has been maintained. So far, around 100 tonnes have been produced. This is the first time that hydrogen produced using fossil-free power has been employed on a trial scale in the direct reduction of iron ore. In concept, the goal is to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the steelmaking process entirely by utilizing solely fossil-free feedstock and energy across the value chain.

Hydrogen-based reduction is a vital step toward future fossil-free iron and steel production. SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall want to establish the most efficient value chain from mine to steel through HYBRIT, with the goal of becoming first to market with fossil-free steel on an industrial scale in 2026.

HYBRIT, a joint venture between SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall, began testing operations last year in a prototype plant developed with help from the Swedish Energy Agency. The technology is continually evolving, and the sponge iron produced successfully using hydrogen technology serves as the feedstock for the future’s fossil-free steel.

“This is a major breakthrough both for us and for the entire iron and steel industry. LKAB is the future supplier of sponge iron and this is a critical step in the right direction. Progress with HYBRIT enables us to maintain the pace in our transition and already in 2026, we will begin the switch to industrial-scale production with the first demonstration plant in Gällivare, Sweden. Once LKAB has converted its entire production to sponge iron, we will enable the transition of the steel industry and reduce global emissions by around 35 million tonnes a year, which corresponds to two thirds of Sweden’s entire emissions. This is the greatest action we can take together for the good of the climate,” says Jan Moström, President and CEO at LKAB.

“This technological breakthrough is a critical step on the road to fossil-free steel. The potential cannot be underestimated. It means that we can reach climate goals in Sweden and Finland and contribute to reducing emissions across Europe. At the same time, it creates new jobs and export successes. SSAB’s transition means we will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10% in Sweden and 7% in Finland. High-strength fossil-free steel will also allow us to help our customers to strengthen their competitiveness. As early as this year, we will deliver minor quantities of steel made using hydrogen-based reduction to customers, and in 2026 we will deliver fossil-free steel at a large scale,” says Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO at SSAB.

“Sweden’s and Vattenfall’s fossil-free electricity is a basic requirement for the low carbon footprint of hydrogen-reduced sponge iron. The breakthrough that we can announce today shows in a very real way how electrification contributes to enabling a fossil-free life within a generation,” says Anna Borg, President and CEO at Vattenfall.

Nedim Husomanovic

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