Revolutionizing Steel: Climate-Friendly Breakthrough Unveiled

KITImage Source: KIT


A new process, developed by researchers at KIT and SMS group, promises to slash worldwide steel production CO₂ emissions by millions of metric tons annually. It upgrades blast furnace tech, showcasing success in a pilot plant, aiming to reduce emissions by 2-4%. The method employs synthesis gas to aid iron oxide reduction, potentially saving significant coke and curbing CO₂ emissions.


In a pioneering breakthrough, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the SMS group have unveiled a transformative process poised to revolutionize global steel production's carbon footprint. This innovative approach holds the potential to curtail CO₂ emissions by several hundred million metric tons annually, heralding a pivotal step in mitigating environmental impact. Successfully demonstrated in a pilot plant, this novel process aims to modernize blast furnace technology, offering prospects of reducing emissions by 2-4%.

Professor Olaf Deutschmann from KIT's Institute for Chemical Technology and Polymer Chemistry (ITCP) emphasizes the urgency, acknowledging that approximately eight percent of global CO₂ emissions emanate from the steel industry. Deutschmann underscores the critical need for swift change, recognizing the potential of new hydrogen technologies for a climate-neutral future, albeit acknowledging the time required for their widespread adoption.

Highlighting the pressing nature of the climate crisis, Deutschmann's research team, in collaboration with the SMS group, Paul Wurth Entwicklungen, and KIT's startup omegadot, unveils a viable solution applicable to conventional plants. Deutschmann anticipates a substantial impact, foreseeing that retrofitting existing blast furnaces with moderate investments could yield a significant global reduction in direct CO₂emissions.

The innovative process diverges from traditional methods by redirecting focus from iron production to utilizing synthesis gas—a blend of hydrogen and carbon monoxide—to facilitate iron oxide reduction within the blast furnace. This entails modifying Cowper heaters in existing plants and converting methane, CO₂ from coke oven gas, and blast furnace gas into synthesis gas through a process called dry reforming. The high temperature required is predominantly sourced from the blast furnace's process heat.

Philipp Blanck from ITCP, collaborating closely with the SMS group in the pilot plant, notes substantial advantages. The utilization of synthesis gas substantially curtails coke consumption per ton of steel produced, resulting in a noteworthy reduction of specific CO₂emissions by up to twelve percent.

The successful demonstration and validation occurred at Dillinger Hüttenwerke, Saarland, in collaboration with omegadot software & consulting GmbH, employing software for precise simulation and visualization. The pilot plant, operated by the SMS group, Dillinger Hüttenwerke, and Saarstahl, aims to produce steel with significantly reduced CO₂ emissions, marking the inaugural phase in the steel industry's transformation.

Gilles Kass from the SMS group's Research Section, a co-author of the publication, underscores the integration of this pioneering process within steelworks as the initial stride in reshaping the steel industry.


The unveiling of this groundbreaking process signifies a monumental leap towards sustainable steel production. As demonstrated in the pilot plant, the utilization of synthesis gas to aid iron oxide reduction offers promising prospects of reducing CO₂ emissions by modifying existing blast furnace technology. This innovation lays the foundation for an environmentally conscious transformation within the steel industry.

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