A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry

December 17, 2020 by  
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A new Swedish iron processing project could disrupt the global steel industry Thomas Koch Blank Thu, 12/17/2020 – 00:20 A recent announcement by Europe’s largest iron ore producer, LKAB, may seem like a technical detail only relevant for metallurgists and steel nerds. However, the company’s plan to invest up to $46 billion over the next 15–20 years to expand into an emissions-free iron process being piloted in Northern Sweden is big news for Sweden, the global steel industry and future generations around the world. From a climate change perspective, steelmaking is considered one of the “hard-to-abate” sectors. Given that the industry contributes directly to 7 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, it is impossible to ignore it. But in contrast to other areas of our society — such as automobiles or power generation — technical solutions to replace conventional methods have seemed either quite expensive or simply unknown. However, this view has rapidly changed over the course of only a few years, and Swedish industry has played a pivotal role in this shift. The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, the  HYBRIT project  was launched as a joint venture between utility  Vattenfall , iron ore producer  LKAB  and steelmaker  SSAB . Both Vattenfall and LKAB are owned by the Swedish state, while SSAB was privatized in 1994. And with the political backing and de-risking of the early stage of the HYBRIT project, it can be argued that HYBRIT is the outcome of a long-standing political intent to ensure a competitive basic industry sector in Sweden. Looking forward, with customers, investors and policymakers increasing pressure to adhere to the Paris Agreement, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical element of maintaining competitiveness. The process that HYBRIT is currently piloting in  Luleå , a small town in northern Sweden, holds the key to unlocking dramatic CO2-emissions reduction for steelmaking. By using hydrogen instead of coal as a “reduction agent” — to remove the oxygen from the iron in iron ore — the most critical step in the steel value chain becomes virtually free of carbon emissions. These steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. On Nov. 23, LKAB announced that it intends to integrate forward in the steel supply chain and start producing “sponge iron” as a value-added product from its current pellet product, using the HYBRIT process. This pivot in business strategy has major significance for the global steel industry. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. There are three reasons LKAB’s announcement is big news for the global steel industry as well as the economy at large: LKAB will single-handedly contribute to greenhouse gas reductions corresponding to more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint by obviating the need for blast furnaces — many of which are in other nations The hydrogen required will significantly contribute to bringing down the cost of this zero-carbon fuel, which in turn can help the economy to address emissions from other sectors such as aviation or shipping While the process trials are still ongoing (the pilot plant is producing sponge iron, but its scaffolding has hardly been taken down) the confidence demonstrated by this announcement clears up any questions as to whether this technology will be commercially scalable   Implications for the global steel industry Sweden is a small economy that already has comparatively clean energy supply. However, LKAB’s stated strategy to over time integrate forward into primary steelmaking not only enables thousands of jobs with strengthened long-term competitiveness, it also reduces disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. This will enable Sweden to punch significantly above its weight class. LKAB’s total production of 27 million tons of iron ore products corresponds to 18 million tons of crude steel. If that steel were produced in conventional blast furnaces, it would lead to emissions of 28 million tons of CO2 — more than 50 percent of Sweden’s total footprint of 52 million tons of CO2 equivalents. Steel production is only one of many potential uses for hydrogen. Indeed, other sectors that are technically challenged to reduce emissions likely will have to rely on cheap hydrogen. Today the cost of hydrogen for fuel cell trucks or buses, as well as using hydrogen (or ammonia) as an aviation or maritime fuel, is prohibitively high. Yet costs are expected to come down as the technology is deployed at scale. The sponge iron capacity that LKAB could build out corresponds to half a million large fuel cell vehicles, a significant step towards the “hydrogen economy” envisioned by the European Commission. The production of the hydrogen could require as much as 10 GW worth of electrolyzer capacity, a quarter of the total  EU target for 2030 . LKAB’s ambition to build a sponge iron plant as early as 2027, just one year after SSAB plans to retire its blast furnace in  Oxelösund , speaks volumes in terms of the technology confidence the joint venture already has established. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Furthermore, Göran Persson, chairman of the board and former prime minister of Sweden, claims that the investments shall be made without any government support, expecting it to be competitive without subsidies beyond the EU carbon price. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30 percent per year over 20 years, diminishing any doubt that the technology can be scaled fast. In the big picture, while this constitutes a significant step towards a decarbonized steel industry, the impact corresponds to less than 1 percent of the emissions from the global steel industry. But even though it’s unrealistic to expect that the whole steel industry will turn upside down to adopt this new technology given the scale of investment in existing blast furnaces, other iron ore companies can of course replicate LKAB’s forward integration. The main iron ore sources in the world, in Australia, South Africa and Latin America, have access to drastically cheaper renewable energy than Sweden. This makes for an even more competitive product using this highly electrified process. Indeed, in these locations  zero-carbon steel can be competitive with blast furnaces completely without subsidies . New challenges, new opportunities The leadership demonstrated by LKAB serves as a role model for the kind of outside-the-box and whole-systems thinking required for the global economy to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Change requires exploration of new concepts and solutions. Bold action both creates new opportunities and surfaces new underlying challenges. For example, adding 10 gigawatts (GW) of load, given Sweden’s current total installed generation capacity of 40 GW, will require significant investments in both renewable generation capacity and grid infrastructure. But for utilities, this opportunity is providing a much-needed headwind to achieve a zero-emission power system, as investing in a growing market is significantly easier than with stagnant demand. The fact that the impact on global emissions will not be credited to Sweden in the political protocols negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change underscores the value of corporate action. The private sector remains the most reliable engine for innovation in our economy. Graphic: Auke Hoekstra, TU Eindhoven. Technology disruption is by definition challenging to forecast. In the solar industry, the International Energy Agency (IEA) consistently has underestimated both near- and long-term capacity additions to an almost comical degree. Yet the private sector has managed to out-perform expectations, and this is true for LKAB and the HYBRIT team just as it has been for the solar industry. In comparison, the official position of  Jernkontoret, the Swedish Steel Association , that it will take “20-30 years until this technology can be introduced into large-scale industrial production” is conservative, to say the least. The  World Steel Association  is almost completely silent about the opportunity of both hydrogen-based reduction and other alternative technologies.  The association’s 2020 positioning paper  maintains a narrative around need for long-term R&D rather than rapid deployment support. But regardless whether the industry associations are acknowledging it, the snowball has started to roll down the slopes of the  Luossavaara  and  Kirunavaara  mountains (the L and K in LKAB) and the avalanche will hit the global steel industry within this decade. Survivors of the impact will re-emerge to ski in clean powder snow. Casualties will be buried under the masses, anchored down by strategically untimely investments in CO2-intensive technology. Pull Quote The steel industry contributes directly to 7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Steel plants can replace polluting blast furnaces with a process that emits water vapor instead of CO2. LKAB is also setting itself up as a single company to grow its DRI capacity by 30% per year over 20 years. Topics Emissions Reduction Chemicals & Toxics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A view of the blast furnace of an old steel refinery in  Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, Duisburg, Germany . Photo by Aranka Sinnema on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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Singapore is the first country to approve lab-grown meat

December 3, 2020 by  
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For the first time, lab-grown meat has won approval for public consumption — but only in Singapore. San Francisco-based Eat Just has developed what it calls “cultured chicken.” The startup company describes its product as “real, high-quality meat created directly from animal cells for safe human consumption.” Singapore’s Food Agency has given the okay for the sale of this new type of chicken product. “This is a historic moment in the food system,” said Josh Tetrick , Eat Just’s chief executive. “We’ve been eating meat for thousands of years, and every time we’ve eaten meat we’ve had to kill an animal — until now.” Related: Aleph Zero program plans to grow slaughter-free meat in space To gain the approval in Singapore , Eat Just had to submit a safety assessment to the Food Agency’s “novel food” working group. The group consists of seven experts on nutrition, food science, toxicology and epidemiology. Other foods that qualify as “novel” include some types of fungi, algae and insects. In the U.S., most new ingredients don’t require the Food and Drug Administration’s approval. But lab-grown meat is an outlier. Now that Singapore has offered its approval, Eat Just hopes the U.S. and western Europe might come around to accept the new slaughter-free product.  “It’s not good for what we’re trying to do to make the food system better if Singapore’s the only one that has this approval,” Tetrick said. The first place to carry the cultured chicken nuggets will be a restaurant, but that restaurant’s identity has not yet been revealed. Tetrick said the dish will be available “soon enough to begin making a reservation.” Not only does traditional meat involve animal suffering and death, raising livestock is not good for the environment. About 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock every year, mostly from methane-spewing cattle. Let’s hope that people continue to eat more protein alternatives, whether it’s high-tech cultured meat or good ol’ inexpensive beans. Via The New York Times Image via BusinessWire

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How Tetra Pak plans to reach net zero by 2030

September 23, 2020 by  
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How Tetra Pak plans to reach net zero by 2030 If you’ve ever drank juice from a carton package, it may have been supplied by Tetra Pak, a multinational food processing and packaging company. One of its ambitions is to deliver “packages made entirely from renewable and/or recycled materials that are fully recyclable,” according to the company site. And it seems to be moving toward that goal. “If you take our standard package, you’ll see that around 71 percent of the raw materials come from a renewable source today,” said Luana Pinheiro, sustainability manager at Tetra Pak. “Our packages offer a lower carbon footprint when compared to other alternatives.” Now the company is working to further improve its sustainability efforts by committing to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its operations by 2030 and across its entire value chain by 2050. Shana Rappaport, vice president and executive director of VERGE at GreenBiz Group, interviewed Luana Pinheiro, sustainability manager at Tetra Pak, during Circularity 20, which took place August 25-27, 2020. View archived videos from the conference here . Deonna Anderson Wed, 09/23/2020 – 14:07 Featured Off

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Sustainable fleets are at an inflection point

August 12, 2020 by  
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Sustainable fleets are at an inflection point Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:15 Companies and cities are increasingly adopting lower-carbon fleets — including trucks and buses that run off electricity, renewable diesel and renewable natural gas — according to a new report from the research team at Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA).  It’s still early days for many of these markets, and sustainability goals remain one of the top drivers for fleets to buy these vehicles. But the metrics that fleet managers care about —  total cost of ownership  — are becoming more competitive for these lower-carbon vehicles, the GNA report found. I read the analysis, which also covers diesel efficiency, natural gas and propane, and picked out these points that I thought were particularly interesting: Renewable diesel is winning fans:  Fleet managers report satisfaction with the performance of renewable diesel, which can be dropped into diesel trucks and buses and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent. The amount of renewable diesel used in California tripled between 2015 to 2019 to 620 million gallons. However, fleet managers say the market is constrained by supply outside of California and Oregon. Diesel still dominates:  GNA predicts diesel vehicles will continue to dominate fleets for at least a decade, especially in heavy-duty applications such as long-haul trucking. Thus efficiency tools — such as aerodynamic packages, anti-idling and driver education — are still important. Natural gas trucks are big but slowing:  There are already 53,000 registered natural gas vehicles in the U.S., and 85 percent are used for heavy-duty applications such as garbage collection, transit and utility trucks. But natural gas trucks only reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel trucks by 11 percent, and regulators such as the California Air Resources Board have pushed the state’s fleets to adopt zero-emission vehicle options, such as electric. Renewable natural gas is growing fast:  Renewable natural gas (RNG) can lower greenhouse gas emissions from fleets compared to diesel by between 60 and 300 percent depending on the source (yes, that’s carbon negative). Between 2015 and 2018, the consumption of renewable natural gas by natural gas fleets grew by 475 percent, and in 2019 in California, 80 percent of the natural gas used for transportation was renewable. But RNG constraints are real:  Because the costs are high to capture and process renewable natural gas, the market essentially has been created by California’s low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). States that want to create a similar market need to create their own LCFS. Don’t overlook propane:  Propane is being used to power school buses that carry 1.2 million students in the U.S., although propane only reduces greenhouse gas emissions over diesel by 20 percent. The industry has been developing renewable propane, which is really only available in California. Electric trucks are moving forward:  Thanks to big commitments by companies such as Amazon, FedEx and PepsiCo, U.S. deliveries and deployment of electric trucks are supposed to double between 2021 and 2022. Today, more than 20 automakers produce over 90 electric truck and bus models. But EV infrastructure challenges remain: Early market challenges include expensive upfront costs for vehicles, complicated and a lack of charging infrastructure and limited range. Fleets also can face both higher or lower costs of electricity in comparison to diesel, so most need to work with partners and use smart charging tools to make sure they’re charging during low cost times of day. I’ll be highlighting zero- and low-carbon fleets during our upcoming VERGE 20 (virtual) conference , which will run the entire last week in October (Oct. 26-30). This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A UPS compressed natural gas fueling station fills up a UPS natural gas-powered truck. Courtesy of UPS Close Authorship

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Do Your Appliances Use Refrigerants the UN Wants To Ban?

July 30, 2020 by  
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A recent UN report suggests solutions to one of the … The post Do Your Appliances Use Refrigerants the UN Wants To Ban? appeared first on Earth 911.

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We Earthlings: Substitute Chicken for Beef

July 7, 2020 by  
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Did you know you can significantly reduce your meal’s carbon … The post We Earthlings: Substitute Chicken for Beef appeared first on Earth911.com.

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What Causes Climate Change?

May 11, 2020 by  
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This article is the second of five in a series … The post What Causes Climate Change? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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What Causes Climate Change?

Earth911 Podcast: So Good So You Embraces Biodegradable BtrBtl Probiotic Juice Shots

May 11, 2020 by  
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Earth911 talks with Rita Katona and Eric Hall, cofounders of … The post Earth911 Podcast: So Good So You Embraces Biodegradable BtrBtl Probiotic Juice Shots appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The shift to a low-carbon economy highlights overlap between ESG and finance

December 24, 2019 by  
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Supermajors are acknowledging write-downs, which pose threats to investors — but new standards could help them get on the same page.

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The shift to a low-carbon economy highlights overlap between ESG and finance

The shift to a low-carbon economy highlights overlap between ESG and finance

December 24, 2019 by  
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Supermajors are acknowledging write-downs, which pose threats to investors — but new standards could help them get on the same page.

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