Steel2Chemicals – the plan
Dow is looking for alternative raw materials to make its products. Synthesis gas - a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen - is an option to make many of our products from. A residual product in the production of steel is blast furnace gas. This is now burned to prevent carbon monoxide from entering the air as a toxic gas. So they are burning something that Dow could very well use. Whether it is also technically possible is being studied in the joint Steel2Chemicals project.
Making a real difference
“What’s so great about this collaboration is that we are both very large industries,” says Matthijs Ruitenbeek, Senior Scientist Carbon Management & Circular Economy Packaging & Specialty Plastics & Hydrocarbons R&D. “At Dow, we process six million tons of carbon a year in Terneuzen as raw material. And in Ghent they make five million tons of steel a year and produce nine million tons of CO/CO2 (blast furnace gas). These are scales that can really make a difference in terms of emissions. The amount of gas released at ArcelorMittal is enough to make just under half of our raw material.”
When companies help each other in this way we call it industrial symbiosis. The beauty of it is that it can even cross borders. We solve each other's problems. We have a raw material problem and want to get away from fossil raw materials. Ideally, we would like to use biomass or waste as a raw material. We also have a common CO2 problem. With this solution we will solve part of this problem.
In 2015, we first started to work out the cooperation possibilities between Dow and ArcelorMittal. If we are able to develop and implement this project all the way to the end it can be done in this region, but also at other steel mills like Tata Steel in IJmuiden. If we could do that, we would already achieve a third of the CO2 emission reduction needed in the Netherlands. So that's a huge hit towards achieving the climate goals for the Dutch government.
The long-term effort wins
It is important to know that this is a long-term project. We still need a few years to map out and test all the difficulties and solutions. The reality is that there are many technical risks and difficult factors at play. So what do we need to do? We need to show that it is all technically possible and then how expensive it will be to build. Sounds easy: use the gas from one plant as raw material for the other. But that gas is not directly suitable, because it contains components that we would rather not have in it. The technique developed at the lab does well on clean synthesis gas, but we have no idea if it works on the steel gas. These are challenges that we are going to test through various projects in the two pilot plants that we have now set up in Ghent near the steel plant.