12/09/2022 – Energy Series / Hydrogen / Gas / Storage / SSAB / LKAB / Vattenfall

A ROCK SHOW FOR METAL FANS – Utilising lined rock cavern technology, HYBRIT could prove a game-changer for both hydrogen storage and green steel

A unique, underground, fossil-free hydrogen gas storage demo facility inaugurated recently in Sweden could pave the way for a new generation of sustainably produced iron and steel.

Launched in 2016 by its three owners –  steel company SSAB (www.ssab.com), iron ore mining and processing company LKAB (www.lkab.com), and European energy company Vattenfall (https://group.vattenfall.com) – the HYBRIT initiative is touted as a game-changer for hydrogen storage. Located at Svartöberget in Luleå, Sweden, the rock cavern storage pilot facility for fossil-free hydrogen gas storage is the first of its kind in the world.


Producing fossil-free hydrogen gas when there is a lot of electricity – for example, when it is very windy – and using stored hydrogen gas when the electricity system is under strain, will ensure a steady production of sponge iron, the raw material behind fossil-free steel.

The recent inauguration ceremony of HYBRIT’s pilot facility marks the start of the two-year test period that partners SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall are convinced will pave the way for a new generation of sustainably produced iron and steel.

Ensuring consumption flexibility for large energy users

“When we build the energy system of the future, we need to both take advantage of opportunities to store energy and ensure that large energy users can be flexible in their consumption,” notes Khashayar Farmanbar, Sweden’s Minister for Energy and Digital Development. “This is exactly what HYBRIT does through its unique hydrogen storage.”

Andreas Regnell, Chairman of the Board at Hybrit Development AB (HDAB), and Senior VP and Head of Strategic Development at Vattenfall, said his company wants to develop HYBRIT so that it is in line with the electricity system of the future, with more weather-dependent electricity generation. “The storage facility is unique – and once again, the HYBRIT initiative is taking the lead in the fossil-free transition. HYBRIT is very important for facing the climate challenge and enabling fossil-free living within one generation,” adds the executive.


Taking the lead in the fossil-free transition

“SSAB has the opportunity to transform our operations and cut 10 per cent of Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions as well as seven per cent of Finland’s, and this will take us one step closer to our goal,” informs Martin Pei, CTO at SSAB. “The hydrogen storage facility is an important piece of the puzzle in ensuring stable steel production and a milestone in the development of HYBRIT.”

In four years, HYBRIT technology will be used on a large scale in the first demonstration plant in Gällivare, Sweden, according to Lars Ydreskog, Senior VP of Strategic Projects at LKAB, with the plan being to then build more sponge iron factories. “LKAB will therefore need to become one of Europe’s biggest hydrogen producers, and this pilot project will provide valuable knowledge for the continuing work on creating the world’s first fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry,” he adds.

LRC: A well proven gas storage technology

The new pilot plant is important in order to really test and understand how large-scale hydrogen storage works. The technology for storing gas in a lined rock cavern (LRC) is well proven and has been used in southern Sweden for about 20 years for storing natural gas. Now, the technology is taking a step forward through the development for storage of hydrogen gas. Moreover, the storage facility will be used more dynamically – being filled and emptied at pace with the hydrogen production.

The pilot plant has a size of 100 cubic metres. At a later stage, a full-scale hydrogen gas storage facility measuring 100,000–120,000 cubic metres may be required, with the ability to store up to 100GWh of electricity converted to hydrogen gas – sufficient to supply a full-sized sponge iron factory for three to four days.

Using HYBRIT technology, SSAB can reduce Sweden’s carbon dioxide emissions by 10 per cent. SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall are investing a total of SEK 259 million (over US$25m) in the hydrogen storage itself, divided into three equal parts, with the Swedish Energy Agency contributing SEK 72 million (over US$7m).

With the initiative, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall intend to create a completely fossil-free value chain from mine to finished steel, with fossil-free pellets, fossil-free electricity and hydrogen. “Storage of hydrogen gas will be an important piece of the puzzle for a fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry,” stresses Klara Helstad, Head of Sustainable Industry Unit at the Swedish Energy Agency, “but also in a future robust electrical system.”

Latest issue – Vol 2/22
Lead stories
– Energy focus
– Gastech 2022
– H2 storage caverns for green steel 
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