Hydrogen for Steel

Hydrogen for Steel

The Wall Street Journal had this headline:

Car Makers Shift Toward Eco-Friendly Steel

While it’s true European car makers are starting to use steel made by using hydrogen rather than from blast furnaces, why is it Eco-friendly?

And why would the WSJ promote the concept of Eco-Friendly when CO2 emissions are eliminated?

It would indicate the editors of the WSJ support the implementation of net-zero carbon policies to eliminate CO2 emissions. 

Eliminating CO2 is no more environmentally friendly than eliminating oxygen. Both are essential to life on Earth.

And what about hydrogen?

Hydrogen has to be separated from the compound to which it is attached: Water for example.

This requires large quantities of electricity when using electrolysis, the proposed method for obtaining hydrogen from water.

There is less energy available from the hydrogen produced from electrolysis than from the electricity used to produce the hydrogen.

Obtaining hydrogen is an energy loser.

Why would that be Eco-friendly?

The direct reduction of iron (DRI) is the process for making steel using hydrogen.

This increases the cost of producing steel by anywhere from 20% to 60% according to the WSJ article on this subject.

The Swedish steel maker SSAB, with its HYBRIT process, said it will use hydropower for the electricity used to produce the hydrogen which will keep costs down to a 20% increase. ArcelorMittal SA and Tysons Krupp have said it will increase the cost of making steel by 40% To 60%.

Schematic of HYBRIT Process from; Summary of findings from HYBRIT Pre-Feasibility Study

The higher cost for steel will increase the cost of every product made from steel, including battery-powered vehicles (BEVs).

DRI-H steel will add at least $2,000 to the cost of a BEV, which already costs between $10,000 and $15,000 more than a vehicle using an internal combustion engine.

Every kitchen appliance will cost more, as will trucks, locomotives, and freight cars. 

These last-mentioned items will result in an increase in transportation costs which will further increase the cost of everything from food to furniture.

In nearly every instance, net-zero carbon policies increase costs and reduces reliability or quality, while in a few instances, such as DRI-H steel, they only increase costs.

It’s difficult to identify any net-zero policy that improves anything.

. . .



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6 Replies to “Hydrogen for Steel”

  1. Mr. Dears,

    Read this for some pertinent information on the use of hydrogen as an energy distribution commodity.

    The_Future_of_the_Hydrogen_Economy_Bright_or_Bleak copy.pdf

    • The pdf you reference provides some sound engineering reasons for why hydrogen is not suitable for use as an energy carrier. As an engineer, I agree with most of them.
      The report mentions the problems with transport, but avoids discussing safety issues. The pdf inaccurately claims that fossil fuels are being depleted. (There is enough natural gas to last for thousands of years.)
      The report supports the net-zero carbon transition using wind and solar, but prefers the use of liquids that are hydrogen carriers such as methanol rather than elemental hydrogen.
      Quoting the report’s conclusion:

      “The time has come to shift the focus of energy strategy planning, research and development from an elemental “Hydrogen Economy” to a “Synthetic Liquid Hydrocarbon Economy”.

      The report never delves into the problems of using these liquid alternatives, which include many of the same problems of energy loss etc., that the use of elemental hydrogen have.
      It also never really confronts the dangers of net-zero carbon policies.
      The hydrogen issue is merely one aspect of net-zero carbon policies that are extremely detrimental to the United States, and for that matter, mankind everywhere.

      Readers should turn to my report found at https://bit.ly/3ugzgz6 for a more complete analysis of safety and cost issues associated with hydrogen, couched in layman’s terms without engineering equations.

  2. I read over one dozen climate science and energy websites and blogs every day. This one is consistent: The articles are concise and accurate from an engineering point of view, yet very easy to understand, even when the subject is complicated.
    The charts are always useful.

    And the author is very polite and helpful when replying to comments, which is very rare on the internet.

    I’ve been following this subject for 24 years. There are only about six authors whose energy articles are “must reads” to me, and Donn Dears is one of the six.

    Keep up the good work!

    Richard Greene
    Bingham Farms, Michigan
    Where we LOVE global warming !

  3. Thanks for the excellent article.
    The green zealots and their politicians fall to realize that all of the steel in the world will soon come from China, India, etc. with the extra cost of going green or more aptly loosing green in the economic sense. I did a lot of work with Hydrogen plants, Steam Reformers, fed with natural gas which waste all the energy in the carbon for a good reason to Desulfurize or upgrade fuels. Also H2 has a lot of handling problems due to potential leakage and special materials. It makes no sense to increase the cost of steel while not improving the value of the product.

    Furthermore the advocates claim they will make Hydrogen with excess electricity from intermittent windmills that will not even be able to handle the base load.

    I just read an article that even with the significant cut back of CO2 emissions due to Covid19 there was no signal in the atmosphere so where is the science?

    • Thanks for your comments.
      The proponents of hydrogen ignore all the problems, such as embrittlement, leakage etc.
      The climate change fiasco is causing a great deal of harm.