The steel industry emits as much as 40% of Japan’s industrial sector’s CO2 during the manufacturing process. The blast furnace method, which is currently used in steel mills in Japan, uses mainly coke (coal) to reduce iron ore to produce steel, leading to CO2 emissions.

NEDO has been working on a hydrogen reduction process technology in steelmaking, and a test blast furnace using natural gas has already been constructed that can reduce CO2 emissions by 30% (12m3 in volume, about 1/400th the size of an actual blast furnace). Since natural gas is also a fossil fuel, CO2 emissions are unavoidable. If hydrogen could be used to reduce iron ore instead of natural gas, CO2 emissions could be reduced, but this has not yet been put to practical use.

The present project aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the entire steelmaking process by establishing a technology for hydrogen reduction in the blast furnace process and a technology for direct reduction of low-grade iron ore with hydrogen.

R&D Item 1 includes (1) Development of hydrogen reduction technology using in-situ hydrogen at a 5000 m3 scale, and (2) development of low-carbon technology using external hydrogen and CO2 contained in blast furnace exhaust gas

R&D Item 2 is (1) on the direct hydrogen reduction method using low-grade iron ore, and (2) on impurity removal technology for electric furnaces using direct reduced iron (0.015% or less phosphorus and 40 ppm or less nitrogen in molten steel.

Contractors are Nippon Steel, JFE Steel, Kobe Steel and the Japan R&D Center for Metals and Alloys.

The project period is FY2021 – FY2030 and the planned budget is 193.5 billion Jp¥/1935億円 (1,5 billion €).

NEDO news release, January 7, 2022