24 November 2020

Swedish model for carbon-free sponge iron

Swedish mining and mineral group LKAB will switch from producing iron ore pellets to producing carbon-free sponge iron using hydrogen-based technology.

Sponge iron
Sponge iron © LKAB

State-owned LKAB estimates that the move will cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by 35 mln t. Under the Swedish government fossil-free Sweden initiative, 22 industrial sectors have developed road maps that show how they can become fossil-free or climate-neutral while boosting their competitiveness. Such work includes the HYBRIT development project involving SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall working to enable the reduction of steel from iron ore using hydrogen instead of carbon.

This new work represents the biggest Swedish industrial investment ever with annual investments of SEK 10 to 20 billion over 20 years. However, LKAB believes that by offering carbon-free products, it can more than double its annual sales up until 2045, and have the ability to supply the world market with the essential carbon-free iron when the global economy transitions.

The company’s entire production will shift from iron ore pellets to a hydrogen-based process similar to that currently under development with HYBRIT. LKAB is collaborating with companies such as SSAB, Vattenfall, Sandvik, ABB, Combitech, Epiroc and others to develop the technology that will enable the transition to fossil-free, autonomous mines.