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Baffinland iron for German green steel

Partners with thyssenkrupp for low-carbon industrial metal Metal Tech News - July 26, 2023

One of the northernmost mines in the world, Baffinland's Mary River operation on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada, has among the richest iron ore deposits ever discovered, and a recent cooperation with German steelmaker thyssenkrupp hopes to turn that iron into low-carbon green steel.

Announced July 25, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. and thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG have entered into a memorandum of understanding to accelerate the development of high-quality feedstock for green steel production by using the northern mine's high-grade iron ore.

While the world continues the transition to a low-carbon economy, legacy industries have been seeking new and more sustainable methods to produce old goods – one of the largest, steel.

With its contribution as a segue into the industrial era and with a continued key role to play in future infrastructure and manufacturing, steelmaking is a technology that will never go away. However, by its very nature, it is a carbon-heavy process, emitting more than 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, making it the industrial material with the largest climate impact, according to the American Chemical Society.

The CO2 emissions from steel manufacturing are almost double that of steel created – 1.85 metric tons of carbon per one metric ton of steel. If the steelmaking sector were a nation, it would be the world's fifth-largest producer of carbon emissions.

To align with zero-carbon strategies, lower carbon and green steel form the basis of the transition to clean value chains and is necessary for virtually every aspect of the global decarbonization drive.

Having high-grade iron ore is one of the first steps to producing green steel, and Baffinland's high-grade, direct shipping ores not only have superior chemistry and first-rate metallurgical properties, but the mine's location makes it uniquely ideal to be extracted and shipped without generating wet tailings.

"We are delighted to be cooperating with thyssenkrupp Steel as a long-standing customer of Baffinland in achieving environmentally compatible steel production," said Baffinland CEO Brian Penney. "Projects like tkH2Steel and the high-grade iron ore are keys to global decarbonization of the steel industry."

The tkH2Steel project is part of thyssenkrupp's climate strategy. Aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2045, the German steelmaker has designed a roadmap toward success, but by the very nature of its industry, thyssenkrupp has its work cut out for it.

The steelmaker's roadmap begins with doing away with coal and replacing it with one of the fuels of the future – hydrogen. By taking all its coal-based blast furnaces and converting them to hydrogen-based direct reduction modules, the iron produced by this new technology, directly purified by hydrogen, will be liquified elsewhere in specially developed melting units to produce high-quality hot metal in what thyssenkrupp believes is a pioneering process.

Even better still, all subsequent production steps can take place in the existing plant structure, including the steel mills, allowing all the company's products to be produced with low CO2 emissions while maintaining thyssenkrupp's stringent quality standards.

As a result, thyssenkrupp reiterates that tkH2Steel is a highly efficient and commendable approach toward achieving environmentally friendly steel production.

"Our goal is to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the entire steel production process, both within and beyond our plant boundaries. To achieve this, we are establishing our own production facilities that employ direct reduction plants combined with innovative melters, resulting in significantly lower CO2 emissions, said Arnd Köfler, chief technology officer at thyssenkrupp Steel. "High-grade iron ore is an important raw material for thyssenkrupp Steel, both for use in the conventional blast furnace and, in perspective, in the direct reduction plant. We are particularly excited to work alongside Baffinland to explore the most effective utilization of high-quality iron ore in our production process."

Ultimately, a carbon-neutral society is difficult to imagine without steel. Many products and industries rely on steel to achieve their own low-carbon goals, and if a company can benefit from green steel to contribute toward achieving greenhouse gas scopes, it is a win.

"We are doing away with coal, not the steel mill," said Köfler.


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