Max Vassella

Steel manufacturer Bluescope is building a low emission steel pilot plant at Port Kembla in collaboration with mining group Rio Tinto.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the two companies will trial low emissions steel making technologies, including hydrogen direct reduced iron technology that uses green hydrogen for the direct reduction of iron ore. This iron will then be fed into an electrical furnace powered with renewable electricity.

This process is heralded as one of a few methods of producing truly low emission steel but so far commercialising it has proven difficult. It requires new infrastructure and a huge amount of renewable energy to make the green hydrogen needed for direct reduction and to power the electric arc furnace, which is largely why the technology is so expensive. 

The first phase will be scoping the potential of the clean hydrogen and renewable electricity steelmaking pathway, which will inform the scale of a pilot plant to be based at the Port Kembla Steelworks. 

The pilot plant will have a hydrogen electrolyser, direct reduction equipment and a melter, with Rio Tinto to supply the majority of the iron ore for the pilot.

“This is an important program – one which will need broad support from governments, regulators, customers and suppliers,” BlueScope managing director and chief executive officer Mark Vassella said. 

“At a time when there is much talk and expectation about decarbonisation, this is an example of two significant Australian businesses getting on with real action. We are putting our dollars and our people right on the front line of addressing climate change.”

The work is part of BlueScope’s climate action fund of up to $150 million. Both companies have committed to net zero by 2050. 

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  1. Powered with renewable electricity? Does anybody realise the amount of power consumed by an electric arc furnace?
    Port Kembla had two electric arc furnaces, the second and largest (50 tonnes) of which ceased production in 1985. The final years of the second furnace (named 2K) saw the last of the raw stainless steel produced in Australia. I can proudly say that the stainless steel produced for the magnificent flagpole that tops our National Parliament came via this process.
    As a Technical person who trained as an analytical chemist and spent well over 30 years in Iron and Steel production I am bewildered by statements contained in this article.
    The everyday steels we use for various purposes has varying specifications for Carbon content. How do these people propose to make the steel to that specification given the proposal is to remove the Carbon when the Iron Ore is reduced to molten Iron.
    Perhaps I am too old and used to the standing process but it makes little sense to this old steelmaker.
    The header title above is also misleading. Low Carbon and Ultra Low Carbon Steels have been produced since the 1970’s. Up until now that terminology refers to the Carbon content of the final product per the Specification