The pilot plant, whose construction began in May 2021, measures 100 m3 in size. At a later stage, a storage facility measuring up to 120,000 cubic metres may be required, in which case it would be able to store up to 100 GWh of electricity converted to hydrogen gas, which is sufficient to supply a full-sized sponge iron factory for three to four days.
Hydrogen storage will be tested in the storage facility using technology known as LRC (Lined Rock Cavern). This means the gas is stored underground in a rock cavern whose walls are lined with a selected material as a sealing layer. The technology for storing gas in an LRC is well proven and has been used in southern Sweden for about 20 years for storing natural gas. Now, the technology is taking a step forward by the development for storage of hydrogen gas, and the storage facility will also be used more dynamically, being filled and emptied at pace with the hydrogen production.
The HYBRIT initiative was launched in 2016 by SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. The hydrogen storage facility will play a very important role in the overall value chain for fossil-free iron and steel production. Producing fossil-free hydrogen when there is a lot of renewable electricity and using stored hydrogen gas when the electricity system is under strain will ensure a steady production of sponge iron, the raw material behind fossil-free steel.
HYBRIT technology replaces the blast furnace process, which uses coal to remove oxygen from the iron ore, with a direct reduction process that uses fossil-free hydrogen gas. Instead of carbon dioxide, the by-product turns into water.
Andreas Regnell, Chairman of Hybrit Development AB’s Board, and Senior Vice President and Head of Strategic Development at Vattenfall, said: “We want to develop HYBRIT so that it is in line with the electricity system of the future, with more weather-dependent electricity generation. The storage facility is unique and once again the HYBRIT initiative is taking the lead in the fossil-free transition. HYBRIT is very important for facing the climate challenge and enabling fossil-free living within one generation.”
Martin Pei, CTO at SSAB, said: “SSAB has the opportunity to transform our operations and cut 10% of Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions as well as 7% of Finland’s, and this will take us one step closer to our goal. The hydrogen storage facility is an important piece of the puzzle in ensuring stable steel production and a milestone in the development of HYBRIT.”
Lars Ydreskog, Senior Vice President of Strategic Projects at LKAB, said: “Hydrogen gas and its storage are central to our transition. In four years, HYBRIT technology will be used on a large scale in the first demonstration plant in Gällivare, and the plan is to then build more sponge iron factories. LKAB will therefore need to become one of Europe’s biggest hydrogen producers, and this pilot project will provide valuable knowledge for the continuing work on creating the world’s first fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry.”