Luxembourg-based steelmaker ArcelorMittal has begun construction on a new installation at its Ghent, Belgium, facility that will convert carbon-containing gas from its blast furnaces into bioethanol.
If successful, the new concept could revolutionize blast furnace carbon emissions capture, according to the company. It could also support the decarbonization of the transport sector, ArcelorMittal claims.
Carl De Maré, vice president of technology strategy at ArcelorMittal, said the new “carbon smart” technology underscores the company’s commitment to transforming steel production and further strengthen steel’s standing in the circular economy.
"We are excited that after several years of research and engineering, we are now progressing with the largest project of its kind within the ArcelorMittal group,” De Maré said. “This is the first application of a viable new business case where re-use of carbon is possible at large scale. We will achieve significant carbon reduction and we hope that this will lead us to a lower carbon economy.”
The technology in the gas conversion process was pioneered by Chicago-based company, LanzaTech, with whom ArcelorMittal has entered a long-term partnership. The technology licensed by LanzaTech uses microbes that feed on carbon monoxide to produce bioethanol. The bioethanol will be used as transport fuel or potentially in the production of plastics.
Once complete, annual production of bioethanol at Ghent is expected to reach around 80 million liters, which will yield an annual CO2 saving equivalent to putting 100,000 electrical cars on the road, the company claims. The new installation, which is the first of its kind on an industrial scale in Europe, will create up to 500 construction jobs over the next two years and 20 to 30 new permanent direct jobs. Commissioning and first production is expected by mid-2020.
"Single-use carbon must become a thing of the past,” said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “In order to succeed in decarbonizing our economy, we will need the commitment of large companies and governments from around the world to ensure carbon reuse is part of the solution. This facility in Europe embodies the key principles of the circular economy and drives to a zero-waste steel production world. We are excited to work with ArcelorMittal and are grateful for the support of the European Commission.”
ArcelorMittal will work with specialized partners to roll out this bioethanol technology. Funding was obtained from various sources, including the European Union's Horizon 2020 program, to carry out further research and development and scale up the project.