Steel plant to produce bioethanol from waste gases

Steel and mining company ArcelorMittal, carbon recycling firm LanzaTech, and technology provider Primetals Technologies have announced that they are to build ‘Europe’s first-ever commercial-scale production facility to create bioethanol from waste gases produced during the steelmaking process’.

Steel plant to produce bioethanol from waste gases

The €87-million (£61 million) flagship pilot project will be located at ArcelorMittal’s steel plant in Ghent, Belgium. A total of €10.2 million (£7.2 million) has been secured under the EU’s 2020 Horizon programme for research and development, and talks are currently taking place with potential equity and debt partners to secure additional funding.

Once funding has been secured, it is expected that construction of the pilot plant will begin later this year. The facility will utilise LanzaTech’s technology to capture carbon monoxide produced in the steelmaking process (which is usually flared or heated to power the steel mill, with the resulting gas emitted as carbon dioxide) and recycle the waste gases using the clostridium microbe, originally found in a rabbit’s stomach, to ferment the gas into bioethanol.

It is predicted that once fully completed in 2018, the Ghent plant will be able to produce approximately 47,000 tonnes of ethanol per year, which could be used for gasoline blending (or be further processed into products such as jet fuel). 

It is hoped that the plant will ‘demonstrate the added value of recycling waste streams’ by reducing emissions and keeping fossil fuels in the ground – as it would negate the need for oil to be extracted. ArcelorMittal has estimated that every tonne of bioethanol produced would displace 5.2 barrels of gasoline, and reduce the company’s carbon emissions by 2.3 tonnes (of carbon dioxide equivalent).

If the commercial viability of the project is proven, the technology could be rolled out to ArcelorMittal’s 19 factories worldwide, enabling the production of around 500,000 tonnes of bioethanol a year.

“We need all solutions to help us stay within our two-degree carbon budget”

Announcing the new plans, Carl De Maré, Vice President of Innovation at ArcelorMittal, said: “This partnership is an example of how we are looking at all potential opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions and support a transition to a lower-carbon economy.

“Steel is produced through a chemical process that results in high levels of waste gases being emitted; this new technology will enable us to convert some of these waste gases into fuels that deliver significant environmental benefits when compared to conventional fossil fuels.

“It is an example of why our carbon footprint should be viewed on a lifecycle analysis basis, given steel is 100 per cent recyclable and the material impact we make on reducing the carbon footprint of our customers through product innovation.”

Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, added: “We are tremendously excited to announce this partnership and our first production facility in Europe at a time when it is abundantly clear that we need all solutions and the commitment of large corporations, cities and countries around the world, to help us stay within our two-degree carbon budget and keep fossil reserves in the ground.”

Primetals Technologies, which will be responsible for part of the engineering, automation, key equipment and commissioning, stated that it was “excited to be a partner in this leap-frog project… [which] will become a game changer within the industry and a benchmark for low-carbon footprint steelmaking”.

Find out more about the technology behind the bioethanol plant in the video below.

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