Published on 07th April 2021
Swedish utility Vattenfall on 7th March announced that it has started building a pilot rock cavern storage facility in northern Sweden to store fossil-free hydrogen gas, alongside steel company SSAB and iron ore miner Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara, this will be another step towards the production of green steel.
Located in Svartöberge, this 100 cubic meter storage facility is currently being constructed in an enclosed rock cavern approximately 30 meters below ground, next to HYBRIT's pilot facility for a direct reduction in Lulea, Sweden. The depth will be achieved through a technique called LRC (Lined Rock Cavern), which means that the walls of the cavern will be covered with a carefully selected material as a sealing layer.
Vattenfall explained that building the storage facility underground provides opportunities to ensure the pressure required to store large amounts of energy in the form of hydrogen in a cost-effective way.
The hydrogen produced and stored at the facility in Svartöberge will be used in the plant's direct reduction reactor to remove oxygen from iron ore pellets. The fossil-free sponge iron resulting from the process will then be used as a raw material to manufacture steel.
The SEK 250 million facility will be financed equally by the partners along with the Swedish Energy Agency (SEA); under the investment, the construction of the facility, two years of operation, and a testing program are covered. This project is part of the trio's Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (HYBRIT) initiative.
Andreas Regnell, Head of Strategy at Vattenfall and Chairman of the Board at HYBRIT said, "Storage provides the opportunity to vary demand for electricity and stabilize the energy system by producing hydrogen when there's a lot of electricity, for example in windy conditions, and to use stored hydrogen when the electricity system is under strain."
Launched in 2016, HYBRIT was started with the goal of eventually producing fossil-free steel. The three companies behind the initiative want to establish a completely fossil-free value chain from mine to finished steel, with fossil-free pellets, fossil-free electricity, and hydrogen. They consider fossil-free hydrogen to be central to the process.
Efforts to produce steel using green hydrogen (made through electrolysis from renewables) have also emerged in other European countries such as Germany or Italy.