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HYBRIT’s hydrogen storage cuts costs by up to 40 percent

HYBRIT’s hydrogen storage cuts costs by up to 40 percent
HYBRIT hydrogen storage closed for tests (photo courtesy HYBRIT 1).

In Sweden, the Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology (HYBRIT) partnership – between SSAB, LKAB, and Vattenfall AB – has announced that the hydrogen storage part of the value chain has now been tested commercially on the electricity market. Its "excellent results" are important for the industry's transition.

Fossil-free hydrogen is a prerequisite for producing fossil-free steel. By also adding hydrogen storage, the variable cost of hydrogen production can be significantly reduced, by between 25 to 40 percent according to results from the HYBRIT trial.

The mission was to produce hydrogen using fossil-free electricity at a variable electricity price with the lowest possible cost, for example during certain parts of the day or for longer periods when weather-dependent electricity generation was in good supply.

Vattenfall bid on the approximately 5 MW of hydrogen production on the electricity market daily and then sent the production plan to Hybrit.

The hydrogen was delivered in a steady flow to SSAB. The hydrogen storage facility was used specifically on the electricity market for about a month.

Despite the fact that Vattenfall optimised trading and operations against real electricity prices during a period with low price variations, the results were very good. The tests were conducted in close collaboration between Hybrit Development and Vattenfall. By applying it in actual circumstances, we were able to follow in real-time how much money was saved by using what was stored, said Marie Anheden, Senior Project Manager at HYBRIT.

The storage facility is a pilot plant measuring 100 m3and contains hydrogen gas pressurized up to 250 bar. A steel-clad rock cavern it is located approximately 30 metres below ground level and approximately 100 metres in via a connecting tunnel.

These are exciting and important results because hydrogen from fossil-free electricity is one of the keys to transitioning the industry. Large-scale hydrogen storage makes it possible to adapt electricity consumption in a system of varying availability and prices and at the same time can supply the industry with hydrogen more stably and cost-effectively. Used on a large scale, hydrogen storage can have a dampening effect on electricity price variations, which would favour investments in new electricity generation from all forms of fossil-free power, said Mikael Nordlander, Head of Industry Decarbonisation, Vattenfall.

Promising results

All research done on the hydrogen storage, which is adjacent to HYBRIT’s pilot plant for fossil-free iron in Luleå, has so far shown promising results.

The design itself has proven to be well suited for rapid emptying and filling, interspersed by periods of less activity.

The hydrogen storage was first put into operation during the summer of 2022, with tests continuing until 2024.

The latest effort to lower the price of hydrogen production used a simulation tool, a new optimization model, and the 100 m3pilot hydrogen storage in Luleå.

LKAB will change the entire production of iron ore products to fossil-free iron sponge produced with hydrogen gas, so these are very important results for us. We will need to produce over one million tonnes of hydrogen and consume over 70 TWh of fossil-free electricity per year when we have restructured the entire operation by 2050. Reducing costs is therefore absolutely necessary, said Stefan Savonen, SVP for Energy and Climate at LKAB.

At full scale, potentially 100,000–120,000 m3storing 100 GWh of electricity converted to hydrogen, it will be enough to power a full-size steel mill’s production for up to four days.

It is gratifying that the HYBRIT collaboration has had yet another positive result that we can present. The research gives us the security and confidence to continue developing a fossil-free value chain together with Vattenfall and LKAB. The hydrogen storage and fossil-free energy supply are of course important parts of the whole, said Tomas Hirsch, Director and Head of Energy and ETS at SSAB.

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