International series Sweden forges ahead in the field of sustainability

Author: Stéphane Itasse

Sweden – When it comes to sustainability, Germany, with the energy revolution and other activities, is the pioneer among the industrial nations for a long time. Nevertheless, now it has to face competition from the far north. Sweden and its industry are starting highly interesting projects for this purpose.

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Without greenhouse gas in the future: The Swedish steel group SSAB explores with partners a method of production to emit only water.
Without greenhouse gas in the future: The Swedish steel group SSAB explores with partners a method of production to emit only water.
(Bild: SSAB)

While the steel industry in Germany still complains about the pressures by CO2-certificates and the Trade Association of Steel propagates that a CO2-free steel production is not possible at all, Swedish companies are tackling this challenge.The steel manufacturer SSAB, the commodities group LKAB and the power company Vattenfall, together are eager to achieve sustainable steel production completely without CO2-emission. As informed by the three enterprises during the start of their joint project, in future only water will accumulate instead of greenhouse gases.

It is further stated that the production facilities of SSAB presently rank among the most efficient ones worldwide in terms of CO2-emission. However, the company is Sweden’s single largest emitter of greenhouse gas with its currently operating coking plants and furnaces. With its specialised and innovative steel industry, best quality iron ore deposits in the whole of Europe and the means to generate electricity without fossil fuels, Sweden holds an exceptional position for such a project. Also, in addition to universities and research institutes, even the Swedish Energy Agency supports the project and co-finances the preliminary study.


Complete CO2-free steel production is striven for the future

“The project could be the beginning of a radical transformation for the Swedish steel industry. It could even mean that Sweden is the world’s first industrial nation that introduces a hydrogen-based steel production on a large scale,” says Klara Helstad, Chairwoman of the unit for sustainable industry at the Energy Agency. “Environment and sustainability are already a part of SSAB’s long-term strategy for many years. Yet we are eager to do even more. With this initiative,we take the responsibility to solve the longstanding problem of carbon dioxide emissions in the steel industry,” says Martin Lindqvist, president and CEO of SSAB.

“For the treatment of its iron ore products, LKAB uses processes which require less energy and thus cause lesser emission than most of our competitors. However, we also focus on improving the processes of our clients. This step towards CO2-free production of pig iron will be a significant contribution to sustainability,” President and Group-CEO of LKAB Jan Moström explains.

Power company Vattenfall in joint research on CO2-free steel production

Swedish government’s power company Vattenfall is also involved in the steel project for good reasons. “We are very pleased to take part in an initiative which secures the future of Sweden’s important industrial sectors, by using CO2-free power instead of fossil fuels for steel production. This is the beginning of the most exciting, environment-friendly development project, from which our partner, Vattenfall as well as the environment are benefitting“, says Magnus Hall, president and CEO of Vattenfall.

The government in Stockholm has even bigger plans for power generator. Only in June 2016 did the government coalition agree with the three opposition parties in the parliamenton a roadmap to convert the electricity supply to 100 % renewable energies by 2040. Thereby, the government and the opposition agreed that the country requires a robust power supply with high security of supply and less harmful effects on the environment as well as the competitive rates of electricity. With the agreement, Stockholm is eager to create a long-time prospect and clarity for the market players. Moreover, energy efficiency goals will be set by the coming year for the years from 2020 to 2030.

Vattenfall makes massive investment in renewable energies

As a part of this policy, Vattenfall is investing a lot in projects for electricity generation from renewable energies. The power generator is planning, for example, to triple its installed windfarms in entire northern Europe to 7 GW by 2025. For this, the company has started two projects for off-shore windparks in the eastern North Sea, 47 km before the English coast with a total capacity of 3.6 GW. That is equivalent to almost six times the power of today’s biggest off-shore windpark of the United Kingdom, London Array (630 MW). Vattenfall is also eager to start soon with the construction of Denmark’s biggest off-shore windpark “Horns Rev 3”, before the west coast of the country. The power generator notes that it is spending more than 1 billion euros for the project.

Just as in the United Kingdom, Vattenfall has inaugurated its first big solar plant in April. The company set up a plant in south-west Wales with a capacity of 4.99 MW on an area of around 8 ha for 50 million Swedish krona (approximately 5.25 million Euro), immediately next to the Cynog windpark that also belongs to Vattenfall. The solarpark is said to generate 5.5 GWh of electricity per year for the coming 30 years. In return, the Swedish electricity supplier sold its brown coal mining in east Germany to the Czech EPH.

At an event of the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, even the General Director of the Swedish energy agency, Erik Brandsma, expected big changes to lie ahead, “If Edison were alive today and were asked about today’s energy system, he would probably have said that it looks somewhat like what he had imagined it to be. Nothing much has taken place there since his lifetime. However, over the next five years, the energy sector shall change more than it is has in the entire last five decades.”

Germany still the leading market for energy and environmental technology

The energy agency runs the German programme since 2015, together with the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, which shall facilitate the Swedish enterprises from the energy and environmental technology sectors to enter into the German market. Many of the enterprises participating in the Germany programme attended the event in Stockholm. “Energy agencies play an important role, when it comes to pressing the right buttons to help innovations on the market. We alone here in Sweden invest between 1.3 and1.4 billion krona per year (approximately 140 to 150 million Euros) for promoting innovations. It is significantly important for some enterprises, for example, to have the construction of a demonstration plant financed that can then be presented to potential clients,” Brandsma adds.

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 Stéphane Itasse

Stéphane Itasse

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