Fortescue Metals Group chairman Mr Andrew Forrest has last week revealed his ambitions to build green steel pilot plant in Australia in 2021. Mr Forrest at the ABC Boyer Lecture for 2021 entitled “Oil vs Water: Confessions of a Carbon Emitter” disclosed the company’s plans to take on hydrogen power to lower emissions. He told “The iron ore company I founded 18 years ago, Fortescue, generates just over two million tonnes of greenhouse gas every year. It’s also just 0.004% of the greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere every year around. The answer isn’t to stop mining iron ore, which is critical to the production of steel and to humanity. The answer is iron ore and steel made using, zero-emissions energy.
Mr Forrest said “Steel is fundamental to everything you see around you, from your home, to your car, the roads you drive on, to your ability to watch this Boyer lecture. But right now, Australia makes barely any of that steel. We just dig up the iron ore, process and export it. In some ways, that’s a blessing: blast furnaces, where most steel is made, generate 8% of global emissions because coal is used in the process. But our neighbours and customers want to phase out carbon pollution by 2050 and the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, coal will be phased out too. That’s just a fact. Now imagine if we could find a way to make steel without coal, zero-carbon steel, in Australia. There are two ways.”
He said “In one, you replace coal in the furnace with our old friend, green hydrogen. You get steel but instead of emitting vast clouds of CO2, you produce nothing more than water vapour. To strengthen the steel, you simply add the carbon separately. It bonds into the metal rather than dispersing into the atmosphere. The other way to make green steel, the radical approach, is to scrap the blast furnace altogether and just zap the ore with renewable electricity. Fortescue is trialling both methods. We aim to start building Australia’s first green steel pilot plant this year, with a commercial plant in the Pilbara, powered entirely by wind and solar, in the next few years. Australia is in an absolutely unique position to scale green steel.”
Mr Forrest added “We could look at losing our coal industry as a national disaster, yet I've always believed out of every setback, is the seed of equal or greater opportunity. We produce over 40% of the world’s iron ore. And our potential green energy and hydrogen resources are immeasurable. If Australia were to capture just 10% of the world’s steel market, we could generate well over 40,000 jobs, more than what’s required to replace every job in the coal industry. Not any old jobs, but similar jobs construction workers, mechanics, electricians, engineers, all of the sectors that’ll be hit when coal is phased out. The timing is right. And we would also produce a product that is so much more valuable than either coal or iron ore green steel.”