Iron extracted from ore using hydrogen shows better mechanical and ageing properties compared to iron reduced with fossil gas or coke, according to the team behind Sweden’s Hybrit green steel initiative.

The project — being run by utility Vattenfall and steel makers SSAB and LKAB — produced its first hydrogen-reduced iron at its pilot plant in Gällivare, northern Sweden, in June 2021.

The Hybrit project uses hydrogen instead of coke (a form of coal) or natural gas to provide both the high-temperature heat and oxygen removal required to turn iron ore (iron oxides) into pure sponge iron, in a process known as direct reduction. It is currently the only commercially available method to decarbonise the extraction of iron from ore in steel production, which is responsible for about 7.2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

A project company, Hybrit Development, has now applied for patents for some of the initiative’s inventions at the European Patent Office.

“It is very encouraging to see that these results not only confirms the climate benefits of replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen from fossil-free electricity, but also that decarbonization can actually lead to better industrial processes and products,” says Andreas Regnell, senior vice-president at Vattenfall and member of the Hybrit board.

The pilot project is still at the development stage, and industrial production is still years away.

”The Hybrit pilot project continues to provide us with invaluable research as we continue the journey towards industrial production, starting first with a demonstration facility in Gällivare in 2026,” says Lars Ydreskog, senior vice-president, strategic projects, at LKAB and chairman of the Hybrit board.