Towards carbon-neutral steel production


In Ghent, the gas from two blast furnaces in a steel mill will soon be converted into ethanol using bacteria. A first in Europe!

Steel Group ArcelorMittal's stated objective in Europe is to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 30% by 2030, and become carbon neutral by 2050. This is quite a challenge given the two tons of CO2 currently generated by the production of a single ton of steel.

To achieve this, the steel giant has just begun construction of a completely new European plant in the port of Ghent. Called Steelanol, this new unit will be based on a revolutionary technology developed by the American company LanzaTech.

In concrete terms, the gases passing through this plant will be compressed before being injected into bioreactors to be mixed with water, nutrients and natural micro-organisms. A fermentation process will then follow, in which carbon and hydrogen will be converted into ethanol by bacteria.

As Jan Cornelis of ArcelorMittal Belgium explains, "this ethanol can be used as a biofuel (without competing with the agri-food use of raw materials, as is the case for bioethanols produced from corn or other cereals). It could also be used as an alternative to certain petroleum-based raw materials for the manufacture of beauty products or plastics."

The plant, which will start operating in 2022, is expected to produce 50 million litres of sustainable ethanol per year.