The main topic of the coming decade will certainly be the careful use of natural resources. The demand for fossil fuels and the production of the greenhouse gas CO2 are major factors throughout Europe and are the focus of intense social and political discussions. Environmental protection will continue to accompany the industry and become an even more important criterion.
In addition to social responsibility, regulations such as the CO2 tax will make it necessary to implement environmentally friendly production processes as quickly as possible. The European emissions trading system will ease the situation somewhat for the time being. As licenses become scarcer over time, however, the pan-European economy will face challenges.
Thyssenkrupp presents, for example, how the industry can adapt. In Duisburg, the company is equipping a blast furnace with technology that uses hydrogen as the primary source of energy. The first attempts have been ongoing since 2019; instead of 300 kilogrammes of coke and 200 kilogrammes of coal dust, pure hydrogen is now being used. After combustion, this decomposes into normal water, producing no CO2.
Hydrogen can be extracted directly from water, but this also requires large amounts of energy. For this reason, it makes sense to produce gas by means of green electricity. At the same time, the hydrogen infrastructure must be expanded: Electric mobility could also opt for fuel cells and do without lithium batteries. A well-developed network would lower production prices and would make the conversion to hydrogen in the industry more economical.
With SALCOS, Salzgitter AG also aims to significantly reduce emissions. The principle is similar: Here, too, the focus is on hydrogen as an energy carrier. In the process of direct reduction in the blast furnace with added natural gas, the CO2 produced is filtered out.