Prestudy promises a technological leap in the steel industry

The Nordic steel industry is now entering a major transition that must move rapidly. Metals research institute Swerim has initiated a prestudy concerning unresolved questions surrounding the development of fossil-free steel, manufactured by direct rolling.

Nordic steel companies are investing over 100 billion kronor in the construction of new, integrated casting and rolling mills, so-called minimills. Two such facilities are planned in Sweden. Manufacturing entails direct rolling; i.e., the steel goes directly from casting to the rolling mill, before the material has had time to cool. By simply eliminating the need for re-heating of the cast material in furnaces, energy savings in Swedish steelmills would amount to as much as1 TWh (which corresponds to the annual electricity requirement for 50,000 electrically heated small homes).*

"But direct rolling presents other prerequisites where metallurgy is concerned. Both laboratory and pilot-scale trials to test various alloying concepts will be necessary. The first task is to determine which equipment will be needed to carry out the actual research," explains Nils Andersson, project manager at Swerim. 

The prestudy, a project funded by the Swedish Energy Agency, was initiated in February 2024 and will be completed in autumn 2025. 

"Thus far, we have only been able to review the existing literature concerning minimills. For example, we can see that, in the lab, we only have two minutes from casting to rolling before the material has cooled too much. We are now looking at the equipment that is available at Swerim and considering how it can be augmented in order to be able to produce laboratory-cast material according conditions comparable to those in minimills." 

* Clarification: This is based on SSAB's current reported production figures. If H2GS (which is not yet in production) the figure would be higher.