European Commission backs RINA’s Hydra Project for near-zero emission steel

The multinational engineering consultancy, inspection, and certification company, RINA, has announced the commencement of the six-year Hydra project to build a 100% hydrogen-fuelled pilot plant. This ambitious open research project will provide ground-breaking near-zero carbon technology and capabilities to the international steel industry.

Text & images by RINA

Funded by the European Commission’s NextGenerationEU plan and backed by the Italian Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy through RINA’s Centro Sviluppo Materiali (CSM) in Castel Romano (Italy), the EUR 88M R&D Hydra project is part of the IPCEI (Important Projects of Common European Interest). The hydrogen-fuelled pilot plant will comprise a 30m high direct iron ore reduction (DRI) tower, an electric arc furnace EAF and a reheating furnace that will all operate with near zero emissions for the production of all types of ‘green steel’.

Reducing CO2 from tonnes to kgs

Each tonne of steel manufactured using a blast furnace produces up to two tonnes of CO2. Although the use of an electric arc furnace (EAF) reduces this to 0.68 tonnes, the average for total global steel production currently sits at 1.63 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel. The open research Hydra project aims to reduce emissions to mere kilograms of CO2 per tonne of steel and will make this world-changing technology available to the industry on the way to net zero.
Ugo Salerno, Chairman and CEO of RINA, says, “The new plant will make the entire steel production process cleaner. It will further provide a fully open testing facility available to steelmakers worldwide to meet the decarbonisation challenge and prove the quality of steel produced using hydrogen instead of carbon-based energy sources.”

Hydra open research facility

DRI tower

The DRI tower, which reduces iron ore (oxide) into metallic iron, will initially run on natural gas. The project team will then assess production using a gas mixture with increasing levels of hydrogen and, ultimately, 100% hydrogen. The testing results will establish the quality of steel produced using hydrogen as the reducing agent in the DRI tower with the EAF and characterise the material and infrastructure needed for the steel industry to use this gas in production. The project team, including up to 120 engineers, will further evaluate the effects of different mixes of raw materials using metallic iron from the DRI tower and steel scraps within the process.
The construction of the plant is scheduled for completion by 2025. When fully operational, it will produce up to seven tonnes of steel per hour for research.

Open research facility

“The truly unique nature of this project is its position as an open research facility. It is not intended or designed to provide a commercial advantage to any one steel producer, but rather move the industry and the world forward in the use of 100% hydrogen production with near zero emissions. This is why the Hydra project has been supported since its inception by leading European steel producers, plant suppliers, utilities, and major stakeholders in the sector. There are many infrastructure and industry projects underway for the use of hydrogen, and it is hoped this project will also help move these forward by establishing a clear supply chain need within the steel industry.” concludes Mr Salerno.

Hydra facts & Figures

H2 availability key

Ultimately, the technology will rely on the availability of hydrogen to power the steelmaking processes. As part of Hydra, RINA, thanks to extensive experience in hydrogen-based decarbonisation technologies, among which the world’s first test of a 30% gas-hydrogen blend in steel forging, will include a testing and qualification hub of materials and components for H2 transportation and storage and launch an international centre of excellence for the dissemination of hydrogen know-how, fostering collaboration and research among stakeholders in the steel and energy sectors.

What is NextgenerationEU?

European Union flagThe centrepiece of NextGenerationEU is the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) – an instrument that provides grants and loans to support reforms and investments in the EU Member States.
Part of a wide-ranging response, the Recovery and Resilience Facility helps
• mitigate the pandemic’s economic and social impact
• make sure Member States are more resilient, more sustainable and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions
• achieve the EU target of climate neutrality by 2050
• set Europe on a path of digital transition
• create jobs and spur growth.
The Facility provides funds for Member States to invest EUR 807 billion in reforms and projects in six key areas.
Green transition – sustainable mobility, energy efficiency and renewables, climate change adaptation; circular economy; and biodiversity
Policies for the next generation – improving access to and the quality of general, vocational, and higher education; digital education, early childhood education and care; youth employment
Smart, sustainable growth – promoting entrepreneurship, competitiveness, industrialisation; improving the business environment; fostering R&D and innovation, supporting SMEs.
Digital transformation – promoting the roll-out of very high capacity networks, digitalisation of public services, government processes, and businesses, in particular SMEs; developing basic and advanced digital skills; supporting digital-related R&D and the deployment of advanced technologies
Social and territorial cohesion – improving social and territorial infrastructure and services, including social protection and welfare systems, the inclusion of disadvantaged groups; supporting employment and skills development; creating high-quality, stable jobs
Health and economic, social & institutional resilience – improving the resilience, accessibility and quality of health and long-term care, including measures to advance their digitalisation; increasing the effectiveness of public administration systems.

About this Tech Article

This tech article appeared in Stainless Steel World, December 2023 magazine. To read many more articles like these on an (almost) monthly basis, subscribe to our magazine (available in print and digital format) – SUBSCRIPTIONS TO OUR DIGITAL VERSION ARE NOW FREE.

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