On 22 June 2021, the online final event of the Carbon2Value (C2V) programme took place. During this symposium the five year C2V project was concluded and results of pilot studies by ArcelorMittal, Dow and LanzaTech were presented. The main conclusion: the programme to convert the carbon waste stream from the steel industry into building blocks for the chemical industry does indeed deliver value. The connection between the steel and the chemical industries will significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
In recent years, ArcelorMittal Belgium and Dow Benelux have carried out trials with a new pilot plant on ArcelorMittal's premises in Gent that separates carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) from the gases produced during steel production. The separated and concentrated CO2 is thus made suitable for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS or storage) or Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU or utilisation) and the CO can be converted into valuable products by Dow and ArcelorMittal.
The aim, says Low Impact Steelmaking project manager Eric De Coninck of ArcelorMittal, is 'eternal life for carbon'. The Steelanol plant at ArcelorMittal in Ghent, which will use LanzaTech biotechnology to convert CO into large quantities of sustainable ethanol starting in 2022, is a first illustration of this. Carbon2Value's pilot setup for separating CO and CO2 from steel gas via amines has already logged many thousands of stable practical hours and is on its way to operational application.
Senior Scientist Carbon Management Matthijs Ruitenbeek of Dow Benelux sums up the experience: "The installation can capture more than 95% of CO2 from the Blast Furnace Gas stream. There is very little pollution in the resulting CO stream. We are quite happy with the performance and look forward to the possibilities of converting this gas into synthetic naphtha."
Support manager Kristof Verbeeck of ArcelorMittal's Steelanol site explains another method of separating CO and CO2 in our industrial gases. "Pressure Swing Adsorption" is an already proven technology where the gas pressure alternately increases and decreases.
Melvin Moore of LanzaTech points out that blast furnace gases are not the only possible feedstock. His company's micro-organisms can handle different waste streams – including direct conversion of captured CO2 and even unsorted municipal solid waste. They can convert these waste streams into various chemical building blocks. In addition to ethanol, these include acetone and isopropanol.
Technology Officer - CO2 and Circular Economy Wim Van der Stricht of ArcelorMittal explains the techno-economic feasibility (TEA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the Carbon2Value technology. "The electricity consumption of the Steelanol process is the most important factor. The way the electricity is generated locally (via coal, gas, solar or wind) is the determining factor. He expects the market for the produced renewable ethanol to grow, thanks in part to new applications such as (aviation) fuel and renewable plastics. Growing demand for these recycled products forms a solid base under the economically viable story for the conversion of blast furnace gas to ethanol.
Ruitenbeek indicates that the conversion of CO2 from blast furnace gas to naphtha directly avoids 2.3 tonnes of CO2 emissions per tonne of naphtha. But because energy is also released downstream from chemical conversion, this increases, according to the model used, to a total of 7.6 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of naphtha when that energy is used to capture CO2 with the Carbon2Value amine technology. He calculated a break-even for this CO2 made naphtha at an oil price of 50 to 75 dollars per barrel. This means there is a very significant economic potential for both sustainable ethanol and sustainable naphtha, especially given the development of the CO2 price level in the European Trading System (ETS).
Discussion: where to go from here?
During a closing panel discussion, Anton van Beek (Dow), Manfred Van Vlierberghe (ArcelorMittal Belgium), Babette Pettersen (LanzaTech), Korneel Rabaey (University of Ghent), Tomas Wyns and Lieven Top (policy makers from the EU and Flanders) looked at the next steps needed to achieve a circular carbon economy. By capturing and using carbon, the industrial partners commit to jointly make the transition to carbon neutrality by 2050. To do so, they need infrastructure, the right regulations and the necessary government funding.
Manfred Van Vlierberghe, CEO ArcelorMittal Belgium: "I am proud of the top performances presented here today. They have an enormous effect on reducing CO2 emissions from the entire steel production process. Converting waste streams into raw materials offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate our leadership in sustainability and is a concrete expression of our ambition of climate neutrality by 2050."
Anton van Beek, President Western Europe & Chairman Board Dow Benelux: "ArcelorMittal and Dow both have the ambition to be leaders in the energy transition. We both have the scale to have real impact. One way to do that is to use the carbon flow from the steelmaking process as a chemical building block and to make sure that the carbon maintains its value."
Babette Pettersen, vice-president Europe, LanzaTech: "We are fortunate to work with ArcelorMittal and Dow as global leaders in steel and chemistry – and as pioneers at the same time. In Ghent we are realising the first plant in Europe that produces sustainable ethanol from a carbon waste stream."
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