Spain: Plant Engineering Arcelor Mittal to Develop World’s First Full-Scale Zero Carbon-Emissions Steel Plant

Editor: Ahlam Rais

A recent MOU signed by Arcelor Mittal and the Spanish Government has resulted in a 1.18-billion-dollar investment in decarbonization technologies at Arcelor Mittal Asturias’ plant in Gijón, Spain. The new DRI and EAF installations at the Asturias plant will enable Arcelor Mittal Sestao to become the world’s first full-scale zero carbon-emissions steel plant.

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Arcelor Mittal Europe has a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 % by 2030, and an ambition to be net-zero by 2050. The company is pursuing two pathways to achieve this: Innovative DRI and Smart Carbon.
Arcelor Mittal Europe has a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 % by 2030, and an ambition to be net-zero by 2050. The company is pursuing two pathways to achieve this: Innovative DRI and Smart Carbon.
(Source: ©Pavel Losevsky - stock.adobe.com)

Boulevard D'avranches/Luxembourg – Arcelor Mittal has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Spanish Government that will see a 1.18-billion-dollar investment in decarbonization technologies at Arcelor Mittal Asturias’ plant in Gijón, Spain. The investments will reduce CO2 emissions at Arcelor Mittal’s Spanish operations by up to 4.8 million tons, which represents approximately 50 % of emissions, within the next five years.

The MOU states the commitment of Arcelor Mittal and the Government of Spain to transition towards a decarbonized steel industry. Arcelor Mittal will introduce new manufacturing processes that contribute to a considerable reduction of CO2 emissions. It will also further intensify its R&D capabilities in Spain to support the new project and innovation requirements. The Government of Spain will promote reforms and investments to support the development and growth of a strong, more competitive and sustainable industrial sector, as well as endeavoring to provide maximum financial support for the project, in line with the Spanish legislation and European Union regulations.

Given the significant cost associated with the transition, in terms of both capex and opex, it is Arcelor Mittal’s expectation that this support will cover at least half of the additional cost to enable its operations to remain competitive as it accelerates its decarbonization program.

The MOU was signed at an event in Arcelor Mittal Asturias’ plant in Gijón, which was attended by Arcelor Mittal Executive Chairman, Lakshmi Mittal; CEO Aditya Mittal and the President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez as well as Raül Blanco, the Secretary General for Industry; and Adrián Barbón, President of the Asturias regional government.

At the heart of the plan is a 2.3-million-ton green hydrogen direct reduced iron (DRI) unit, complemented by a 1.1-million-ton hybrid electric arc furnace (EAF).

This starts the transition of the Gijón plant away from the blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace steelmaking production route to the DRI-EAF production route, which carries a significantly lower carbon footprint. The new DRI—which will be the first of its kind in Spain—and EAF will be in production before the end of 2025.

To maximize the emissions reduction potential, ultimately green hydrogen will be used to reduce the iron ore in the DRI, with the EAF powered by renewable electricity. The support of the national and regional governments in this project is crucial as it will enable Arcelor Mittal to have access to green hydrogen supplied through a consortium of companies that will cooperate in the construction of the infrastructure required in order to produce hydrogen in the Iberian Peninsula using solar‑powered electrolysis and to transport it directly through a network of pipelines. The initiative involves the construction of multiple large-scale solar farms, with hydrogen produced in situ and with the corresponding impact in terms of employment.

The Gijón DRI will also feed the company’s Sestao plant, situated approximately 250 km from Gijón, where production is already entirely from the electric arc furnace route.

By 2025, Arcelor Mittal Sestao will produce 1.6 million tons of steel and be the world’s first full-scale steel plant to achieve zero carbon-emissions.

Speaking at the signing of the MOU in Gijón, Aditya Mittal, CEO Arcelor Mittal, said: “It is widely understood that for the world to achieve net-zero by 2050, faster progress over the next decade is essential. The MOU we have signed today will play an important role in doing exactly that. The construction of the new green hydrogen DRI plant in Gijón will not only enable us to reduce emissions from our Spanish operations by half but will also result in the world’s first full-scale zero carbon-emissions steel plant in Sestao.

“Clearly, this is a project that will require the support of many different partners to succeed; our plan hinges on the supply of affordable, mass-scale hydrogen, access to sustainable finance and a supportive legal framework that allows us to be competitive globally. The Spanish Government has clearly defined plans to transition the country to a decarbonized economy and I have been impressed by the progress made in creating the energy infrastructure that this green economy will require.

As a large emitter, the steel industry can make a vital contribution to achieving net zero by 2050. This project demonstrates what is achievable.

Expressing their support for the plan, Spain’s Minister of Industry María Reyes Maroto said: “The Government of Spain and the Arcelor Mittal Group fully agree that the transition towards a decarbonized economy is an essential objective for Spain, and they both recognize the industrial, technological and regulatory challenges that this transition poses for the Spanish industry, as well as the opportunities it offers, in terms of innovation and improved competitiveness.

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The Government of Spain, through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, will strongly support a new framework of institutional relations between the Government and the Arcelor Mittal Group, because the Government of Spain recognizes the importance of the steel industry for the development of the Spanish economy, while also recognizing that the industry needs a stable and predictable legal framework as the best tool to enable it to be competitive and attain the targets set in terms of energy transition and digitalization, both at the national and at the European Union level. In this regard, the Government of Spain is exploring regulatory instruments to support the industry in the transition process, such as the compensation programs for electricity-intensive industries, tools to promote improved energy efficiency, public financing for digitalization, instruments to promote industrial investments, training programs and strategies to promote the use of clean fuels.”

Arcelor Mittal Europe has a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 % by 2030, and an ambition to be net-zero by 2050. The company is pursuing two pathways to achieve this: Innovative DRI and Smart Carbon.

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