Ghent is becoming an important pawn in ‘green’ ArcelorMittal steel
ArcelorMittal aims to sell approximately 600,000 tons of steel with a ‘green steel certificate’ by the end of 2022. The factory in Ghent is an important link in the ‘carbon neutral steel story’.
“This is a historic moment,” said Geert Van Poelvoorde, who was recently appointed head of ArcelorMittal Europe, in a call on Wednesday. ‘It is the first time that we make carbon-free steel and have issued a certificate for it. In this way we want to help reduce our ecological footprint and that of our customers. ‘ ArcelorMittal is the first steel producer to offer ‘green steel certificates’.
The steel industry is known as a major environmental polluter. The ArcelorMittal factory in Ghent, one of the group’s showpieces worldwide, emits 9.6 million tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) into the air every year. It accounts for 8 percent of our country’s total CO2 emissions, more than the greenhouse gases from all trucks and buses combined.
There is still a lot of work to be done to achieve the European environmental targets – 30 percent less CO2 emissions by 2030, fully carbon neutral by 2050. ArcelorMittal plans to invest ‘billions of euros’ in the coming decades to achieve its European targets. “With the launch of the green steel certificate XCarb, we show that our intention to produce green steel is not just empty words,” said CEO Aditya Mittal.
This is a historic moment. It is the first time that we make fully carbon-free steel and also issue a certificate for it.
At the factory in Ghent, ‘green steel’ that is made on the basis of hydrogen from natural gas has recently been sold. From 2022, the ‘greening’ of the production process will be expanded significantly. Then the Torero installation will start up. It will process wood waste from container parks into biocarbon. This will replace the fossil coal that is now used in blast furnaces to smelt the iron ore.
An installation is also being built at the Ghent site that converts carbon monoxide or CO from the gas from steel production into bio-ethanol via a fermentation process (via microbes). From 2023, that factory must produce 80 million liters of bioethanol per year. This should reduce CO2 emissions by 400,000 tons per year.
In both projects – including the recent modernization of the Ghent blast furnace to process wood waste – ArcelorMittal is investing 400 million euros.
The management is also examining whether it is possible to process plastic waste instead of wood. A pilot project is underway with Dow Chemical in Terneuzen to convert CO into synthetic naphtha. It will be reused as a raw material for chemistry.
ArcelorMittal Gent, together with nine private and public players, is also involved in the North-C-Methanol project in the port of Ghent. There will be two factories. One that converts water into green hydrogen and oxygen via wind energy and one that uses the green hydrogen to convert the captured CO2 emissions of local players such as ArcelorMital into green methanol.
ArcelorMittal also has plans to connect the Dow plant in Terneuzen via pipelines to the Ghent steel plant for the supply of hydrogen. This would be mixed with CO from our own production and re-injected into the blast furnace. Again as a replacement for fossil fuels. ‘With this pipeline we can immediately reduce CO2 emissions by 200,000 tonnes per year’, can be heard in Ghent. That corresponds to the effect of insulating 100,000 private house roofs.
As this is a cross-border project, many regulatory hurdles still need to be overcome. ArcelorMittal also expects European support for this.
Aditya Mittal also plans to invest € 100 million annually in companies that help its steel group develop technology to reduce CO2 emissions. The aim is to produce about 600,000 tons of ‘green steel’ by the end of 2022, which is currently a piece of cake compared to the total steel production of 71 million tons. ‘We will gradually adapt our European factories. That takes time, ‘says Poelvoorde.
The largest steel producer in the world is controlled by the Mittal family. The listed group is active in 60 countries and has steel mills in 17 countries. Ghent is one of the technological showpieces and one of the group’s most efficient factories. The ArcelorMittal sites in Ghent, Genk, Geel and Liège produced 5.9 million tons of steel in 2019. Last year, as a result of the temporary factory closures due to covid, this was considerably less, ending at 4.4 million. Last year, the entire ArcelorMittal group produced 71.5 million tons of steel, generating sales of $ 53.3 billion.