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Experts hope to make secondary steel production up to 20 percent more energy-efficient and cleaner with the help of hydrogen.

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Steel is an essential material for construction, mechanical engineering and mobility, but producing it uses vast amounts of energy and generates harmful carbon and nitrogen oxide emissions. Through the “OptiLBO” research project, which brings the Gas- und Wärme-Institut Essen together with pioneers in “green steel” production GMH Group and other industrial partners, experts hope to make secondary steel production up to 20 percent more energy-efficient and cleaner.

The project is focusing on the “electric arc furnace” in which scrap steel is melted down. The scientists will not only look at how the burner system can be improved – using an additively manufactured device which mixes the natural gas and oxygen more efficiently – but also whether green hydrogen could be used instead of natural gas for the smelting process, and what pollutants it produces.

It builds on the success of the “AdReku” project which developed the first 3D-printed heat exchanger. With OptiLBO improvements, it is estimated that the innovative burner system which is currently in use at GMH’s Bous steelworks in Saarland, in combination with the intelligent control system, could reduce natural gas consumption by up to 25 percent, saving almost 900 tonnes of CO2 and also cutting nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent.

If rolled out countrywide, the technology could add up to significant energy savings. Twelve million tonnes of secondary steel are produced in Germany every year. Therefore, if energy consumption was reduced by 20 percent, it would save about 120 gigawatt hours and 20,700 tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to the amount of energy consumed by more than 4,000 average single-family homes.

OptiLBO is the first project in the “Hydrogen Technology Offensive” which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The other key partners are Kueppers Solutions GmbH and Küttner Automation GmbH.