Finance

Tata Steel opts for hydrogen, coal phased out

Tata currently has two coal blast furnaces to make steel, but it wants to switch to natural gas and eventually hydrogen.

This means that the major air pollution caused by the group should partly become a thing of the past. Tata is now the largest emitter of CO2 in the Netherlands. It also emits particulate matter. It has therefore been under heavy fire for a long time.

The announcement of the plans comes a day before an important debate about Tata Steel takes place in the House of Representatives.

With the choice for hydrogen, the plan to store CO2 in empty gas fields under the North Sea, another possibility that Tata looked at until recently to reduce environmental pollution, is off the table.

Still a lot unclear

“Within eight years it will look very different here. Fewer chimneys and other installations,” promises Hans van den Berg, chairman of the board of Tata Steel Netherlands.

But there are still many uncertainties. For example, it is still unknown how much CO2 can be saved with the switch. It is also not yet clear how much the investments will cost.

What is clear is that the government will have to step in, not only for the installations themselves, but also for the construction of infrastructure for the transport of hydrogen and the issuance of the necessary permits. Whether Tata’s Indian mother contributes to the transition to hydrogen is also still uncertain. However, the plans have the ‘full support’ of the mother.

It will probably take until 2030 before Tata runs partly on gas or hydrogen. The cleanest way to make hydrogen is by using renewable energy from wind or sun. But there is still (far) too little of that.

Tata Steel had already stated earlier that it wanted to achieve a significant CO2 reduction by 2030. The company is now opting for the use of so-called DRI technology. This is a technology with which iron and steel are made from natural gas or hydrogen, performed in combination with one or more electric furnaces.

Earlier this year, a takeover of the Dutch branch of Tata Steel to the Swedish branch partner SSAB still failed, because the possibilities for sustainability did not fit well with the sustainability plans of the Swedes. There was also criticism from FNV.

The union even came up with a plan for a switch to hydrogen to ensure the survival of the steel manufacturer and thus approximately 10,000 jobs in the Netherlands. This subsequently led to a study into the best way to make steel production more sustainable.

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