FD: Arcelor and Dow solve each others problems
“ArcelorMittal has a problem with its largest factory in the Belgian Ghent. Located just across the Dutch-Belgian boarder, the world’s largest steel manufacturer, emits too much CO₂ into the air. CO₂ (carbon dioxide) is a major contributor to the warming of the earth. Emissions must be reduced, but that is complicated. During the production of steel and in the combustion of blast furnaces by the neighboring power plant, CO₂ is emitted.
Dow Benelux, located some twenty kilometers to the north, in Terneuzen, is also facing a problem. The American chemical multinational’s European headquarters would like to use other feedstock than oil for its production process. Oil is polluting and finite. Dow has developed some technology to repurpose residual gasses as feedstock for plastic production. But where do they get these gasses?
One plus one is two, even in the heavy industry and chemical world. ArcelorMittal will deliver its residual gasses to Dow Benelux. This allows the steel producer to reduce its emission of CO and CO₂ and the chemical company becomes less dependent on oil. An addition benefit is that Dow does not need to build installations to produce feedstock for its plastics production. The intended collaboration already has a project name: Steel2Chemicals. In 2022 it will be clear if the project is viable.
Two pilot plants to test the business plan
During the first phase of the project, two test factories will be in place in Ghent to further develop the technology. The first factory requires an approximate investment of €10mln and should be operational late 2018. The second pilot will follow shortly thereafter and requires a similar investment. At the end of the project in 2022 the ‘pilot’s’ should have given sufficient information to decide if the business plan is economically viable.
All being well a whole new factory will be built around 2025 just across the Belgian border, where residual gasses are processed into synthetic naphtha. This will then be transported by ship across the Canal from Gent to Terneuzen.
The process in technical terms: Dow will create so-called syngas by combining carbon monoxide gas (CO) from the Arcelor blast furnaces with their own excess hydrogen (H2). This gas has been known for about a century. Many products can be made from this. ‘Chemical crafts,’ as projectleader Matthijs Ruitenbeek from Dow calls it. Eventually the existing Dow crackers in Terneuzen should produce the building blocks for plastic (polyethylene).
Part of a trend
The initiative to recycle residual CO₂ flows is part of a trend. More initiatives in this field have recently been launched. The Swedish steel producer SSAB in Lelea intends to use their blast furnace gasses for the production of methanol for ocean vessels. The German steel producer ThyssenKrupp in Duisburg will provide residual gasses to the German chemical concerns Basf, Bayer’s Covestro, Evonik and the Swiss Clariant, through a government subsidized project Carbon2Chem. This reduces are CO₂ emissions drastically.
This really makes an impact. The steel industry is responsible for 7% of the global CO₂ emission. At the same time government and customers of the feedstock suppliers such as the steel and chemical industry demand a lower carbon footprint.
The project Steel2Chemicals can ultimately be profitable for both ArcelorMittal and Dow Benelux. But that is entirely dependent on the oil price. Plastic made from syngas should be able to compete with plastic made from oil without subsidies. With an oil price at $50 this is not possible, according to Ruitenbeek at Dow.
Cloning the concept
Dow hopes they can eventually sell licenses for her technology. This way a much larger contribution can be made towards the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gasses in Europe and the rest of the world. ‘People can clone the Dow concept’, Ruitenbeek adds.
ArcelorMittal concludes that European steel manufacturing has reached the end of its technical capacities to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Eric de Coninck, director of technology at ArcelorMittal: ‘We must search for innovative solutions to further reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses.’
The higher goal: a zero-emission factory
So, as of 2011, ArcelorMittal has been working on the concept of a ‘zero-emission factory’. Arcelor’s residual gasses are carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO₂), hydrogen and nitrogen (N₂). In Ghent, the steel concern has been experimenting to identify new purposes for carbon monoxide. Two years ago they began a collaboration with a company from New-Zealand, LanzaTech, by building an ethanol factory on the ArcelorMittal site. Arcelor supplies them with CO-rich gasses.
‘When the project with Dow is at full capacity and if we can find a market for CO₂ from our steel gasses, we can reduce our carbon-foot print by 10%’, according to De Coninck. ‘Electricity can then be renewably produced and the CO no longer needs to be burnt as feedstock for power plants and we filter the CO₂ from the residual stream.’
Dow predicts a reduction of 2.3 ton CO₂ on the production of each ton synthetic naphtha. ‘An annual reduction of millions of tons CO₂ is within reach’ if the invention is licensed to other companies.
Piping: task for the government
To produce syngas a circa sixteen kilometer long pipeline is needed to transport the hydrogen from Dow to Arcelor. The first eight kilometer long section from Terneuzen is already in place for the intended delivery of hydrogen to Yara in Sluiskil. The second section needs to be contrasted. ‘This is where the government has a major task’, Arcelor’s De Coninck says.
European rules and regulations
The technical development needs to go hand in hand with modifications to existing legislation, according to Ruitenbeek. ‘In Europe there is a clear movement towards a circular economy. But legislation is still mainly geared towards biomass, not recycling of these residual streams. New legislation takes years. This is why we are in dialogue with the European Commission via our European branch organizations Cefic (chemical) and Eurofer (steel) to amend legislation. It is highly important that this has happened when the new plant is opened in 2025.’”
Source: Het Financieele Dagblad (FD)