Minimum Emissions Configuration of a Green Energy–Steel System: An Analytical Model


The need to significantly reduce emissions from the steelmaking sector requires effective and ready-to-use technical solutions. With this aim, different decarbonization strategies have been investigated by both researchers and practitioners. To this concern, the most promising pathway is represented by the replacement of natural gas with pure hydrogen in the direct reduced iron (DRI) production process to feed an electric arc furnace (EAF). This solution allows to significantly reduce direct emissions of carbon dioxide from the DRI process but requires a significant amount of electricity to power electrolyzers adopted to produce hydrogen. The adoption of renewable electricity sources (green hydrogen) would reduce emissions by 95–100% compared to the blast furnace–basic oxygen furnace (BF–BOF) route. In this work, an analytical model for the identification of the minimum emission configuration of a green energy–steel system consisting of a secondary route supported by a DRI production process and a renewable energy conversion system is proposed. In the model, both technological features of the hydrogen steel plant and renewable energy production potential of the site where it is to be located are considered. Compared to previous studies, the novelty of this work consists of the joint modeling of a renewable energy system and a steel plant. This allows to optimize the overall system from an environmental point of view, considering the availability of green hydrogen as an inherent part of the model. Numerical experiments proved the effectiveness of the model proposed in evaluating the suitability of using green hydrogen in the steelmaking process. Depending on the characteristics of the site and the renewable energy conversion system adopted, decreases in emissions ranging from 60% to 91%, compared to the BF–BOF route, were observed for the green energy–steel system considered It was found that the environmental benefit of using hydrogen in the secondary route is strictly related to the national energy mix and to the electrolyzers’ technology. Depending on the reference context, it was found that there exists a maximum value of the emission factor from the national electricity grid below which is environmentally convenient to produce DRI by using only hydrogen. It was moreover found that the lower the electricity consumption of the electrolyzer, the higher the value assumed by the emission factor from the electricity grid, which makes the use of hydrogen convenient.

Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Italy

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