Automotive insights Making fossil-free steel a reality
Docol the automotive steel


A look at SSAB’s HYBRIT project and why sustainable solutions for the complete life cycle of a vehicle are becoming a necessity.

It used to be that quality was the so called “hygiene factor” in the automotive industry – the baseline factor motivating consumer satisfaction. However, many now argue that something else has taken over – sustainability.

When looking back at the evolution of the industry over the past 20 years, it is hard to disagree. OEMs are increasingly setting higher standards and targets with regards to sustainability. Things like utilizing high strength materials, including Docol® AHSS steel, to reduce component weight and increase fuel efficiency are commonplace. Furthermore, hybrid and electric vehicles are well established on the market and some OEMs are even outlining ambitious goals for eliminating CO2 emissions altogether within the next three decades.

While the effects of these measures may be profound, it is important to remember something. Sustainability will soon be measured for the complete lifecycle of a vehicle and appropriate solutions will become a necessity.

What judges a car’s level of sustainability?

Today, a car’s sustainability is only really judged based on emissions from the tail pipe, but as the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) shows us, there is a lot more to the story.

While it is true that the user phase of a vehicle contributes to the majority of emissions, the phases of production and recycling also have a crucial effect on greenhouse gas emission levels.

So, what will have to change if CO2 is considered during these stages as well?
The answer is to look more critically at the supply chain when evaluating materials and choose the ones that display the lowest carbon footprint, from suppliers that take ownership and accountability for their effect on the environment.


HYBRIT – for fossil-free steel

At SSAB, we want to take responsibility for our contribution to the worldwide carbon footprint. To do so, we have initiated a unique project for fossil-free steel making called HYBRIT. This joint venture project between SSAB, LKAB’s and Vattenfall has the goal of finding a solution for fossil-free steel production. As President and CEO of SSAB, Martin Lindqvist explains:

“SSAB wants to be part of the solution to climate change. The transition to fossil-free steel production has already started, and we’re now detailing what the road ahead will be like. We believe that this is the right way to go and that it will create many exciting business opportunities for us as a company.”

Currently, coal and coke are used to reduce iron ore into iron. It is a process that generates large volumes of carbon dioxide. The idea behind HYBRIT is to use hydrogen, which has been produced with electricity from fossil free sources. Instead of CO2, emissions will then be in the form of normal water. Sweden and Finland have a unique opportunity to drive an initiative for fossil-free steel, with good access to climate-smart and fossil-free electrical power, Europe’s highest-quality iron ore as well as a specialized, innovative steel industry.

The initiative was given the green light last winter to proceed from a feasibility study to a pilot plant. Now, construction is starting and the pilot plant is expected to be ready in 2020.

“By starting to build the pilot plant, where we’ll develop and scale up the technology for fossil-free steel production, we’re taking an important step forward towards SSAB’s goal of being fossil-free by 2045. We are proud of being part of an important and challenging technological shift that can result in our solving part of the climate issue,” says Lindqvist.

Read more about the HYBRIT project.

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