Creating Value from Waste in the Steelmaking Industry

In January this year, the European ZHyRON project was launched in Spain to pioneer a new process for recycling steel-making by-products based on using green hydrogen.

As reported by independent non-profit media agency, nine companies and institutions from six European countries collaborate to pioneer a valorization pathway for steel-making by-products rich in iron and zinc, with the goal of enhancing the sustainability and circularity of the steel industry. Although valorization processes would already exist in this field, “they rely on high CO2 emissions, compelling the metallurgical industry to transition to hydrogen as part of its journey towards carbon neutrality”.

The project will thus explore solutions related to technical integration, economic viability, and environmental considerations. “This will foster innovative business models and strategies for the extraction of still usable iron and zinc from metallurgical waste using hydrogen as reductant,” the information said. “From a technical point of view, the project’s approach involves a combination of pyrometallurgical processes and hydrometallurgical stages: the recovered iron oxides will be transformed into direct reduced iron, suitable for consumption in electric arc furnaces, while the extracted zinc will be processed into zinc oxide concentrate for use in many sectors, from batteries to agriculture, with an eye to wastewater treatment and reuse.”

These potential solutions would offer several benefits, including preventing hazardous waste landfilling, reducing CO2 emissions, and establishing a new circular economy loop. In the words of Macjei Kaplan, from Green Iron (Sweden) “The aim of the ZHyRON project is to transform the current linear steelmaking process into a circular and sustainable flow of resources”, while the project’s technical coordinator, José Luis García Cimadevilla from ArcelorMittal, stresses that “By collaborating and utilizing the expertise of each of the nine partners, we aim to develop a new process based on green hydrogen and electricity, without CO2 emissions and other environmentally harmful gases”.

Funded by the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) as part of the Clean Steel Partnership, ZHyRON brings together a consortium of nine partners from six European countries: Fundación CIRCE – Centro de Investigación de Recursos y Consumos Energéticos (Spain) as coordinator; ArcelorMittal Innovación Investigación e Inversión (Spain); ArcelorMittal Maizieres Research S.A. (France); Centre de Recherches Métallurgiques asbl (Belgium); Green Iron H2 ab (Sweden); BFI – Vdeh-Betriebs­forschungsinstitut Gmbh (Germany); Hydrometal S.A. (Belgium); Jean Goldschmidt International (Belgium) and Fondazione ICONS (Italy).

ICONS will be in charge of the communication and engagement actions with stakeholders:

(Published in GLOBAL RECYCLING Magazine 1/2024, Page 47, Photo: Jure Ahtik /