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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