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Innovating in the Netherlands

The Netherlands' biggest polluter moves towards hydrogen steel production

The Netherlands' largest metallurgical company has revealed plans to launch a new plant in which it will produce steel using hydrogen. The head company in India is supporting the investment of 65 million euros. Producing steel in the Netherlands in a sustainable way appears to be a step closer.

Tata Steel intends to be carbon neutral by 2045.

Last year, the largest carbon emitter in the Netherlands decided to use hydrogen to produce steel. This decision was largely due to social and political pressure.

Prior to this decision, the metallurgical company had opted to store the CO2 it produced in empty gas fields under the North Sea. This option, however, was later discarded.

Three international companies will be in charge of the most important part of the project: the development of a steel plant that runs on hydrogen.

The Italian company Danieli will propose a direct-reduction iron (DRI) plant. The Canadian company Hatch will design the corresponding electric furnaces and the American company McDermott will support Tata Steel's project team.

The plant, if built, is estimated to cost several billion euros. For the time being, the 65 million euros offered by Tata Steel's Indian headquarter, Tata Steel, will cover the design costs.

Although it is yet to be confirmed that the construction will go ahed, Ad van Wijk, professor of Energy Systems at the Technical University of Delft, considers the signing of the agreement "an important moment". It means the plan is no longer just an "impossible" idea, he says.

The new hydrogen steel plant is expected to come onstream in 2030, replacing one of the two existing blast furnaces, with more plants to follow. Ultimately, the company will abandon traditional blast furnace steel production in 2037.

The plan to produce steel with hydrogen was put forward by the FNV Metaal trade union. Its president, Cihan Lacin, thinks the decision should have ideally been taken earlier and added that he hopes “the first steps will be taken as soon as possible so that there is no turning back".

The hydrogen steel plant will be located on the same site as several existing plants. To do so, Tata Steel has to create a space equivalent in size to sixty football fields. Moreover, the highest point of the new plant will be 136 metres, almost thirty metres higher than the old blast furnaces.

Tata Steel’s executives acknowledge that there is still a long way to go before green steel becomes a reality in the Netherlands. The chances of success depend to a large extent on the availability of hydrogen from renewable energy. Indeed, if hydrogen is not produced on a large scale in the Netherlands by 2030, the plant will have to continue running on fossil fuels.

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