Analysis and Commentary

Western Australia moves towards green steel production

Analysis and Commentary

Western Australia has joined South Australia in ambitions to create a green steel manufacturing capability, with the release of a new report by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA).

The Western Australia’s Green Steel Opportunity report maps five ways WA iron ore can be used to reduce emissions from steelmaking:

  • Green iron ore mining and export using renewable energy sources
  • Green iron pellets production using renewable hydrogen
  • Hot Briquetted Iron production using hydrogen to make the pellets and natural gas processes for HBI
  • Hot Briquetted Iron production using green hydrogen instead of natural gas
  • And the domestic production of green steel using fully renewable energy solutions.

However the MRIWA report found that the levelised cost of green steel compared to steel made with fossil fuel was significantly higher.

The report said: “In a market with competitive margins, Western Australian green steel would need to see lowering of the hydrogen production costs and the renewable power price to be competitive.”

The report did say that while the current cost of magnetite ore was higher than typical hemetite ores produced in WA, there was potential to reduce costs to the same level.

It found that transitioning the production of iron ores to green power already was capable of delivering broadly similar, or slightly improved unit cost of production.

And the report said that green-hydrogen based HBI was expected to reach cost parity sooner than production of green steel

Western Australia has massive infrastructure in iron ore, burgeoning green energy and green hydrogen capabilities and established export infrastructure in the north-west of the state.

While it does not have the existing steel industry of South Australia in GFG Alliance’s Whyalla steel works, it has existing producers such as Fortescue Metals Group which is greening their operations (pictured).

However, GFG has already manufactured green iron pellets utilising local magnetite iron ores, is replacing its blast furnace with an electric arc furnace, as part of plans to achieve green steel production.

The other Australian producer of basic steel BlueScope Steel is being much more cautious about its plans for the Port Kembla steel works, opting to reline an existing blast furnace which would entail the continuing use of coal rather than green hydrogen.

Releasing the report WA Premier Roger Cook said: “Our State’s abundant renewable energy resources alongside our world-leading iron ore industry puts WA front and centre in the global push towards green steel.

“Moving up the green steel value chain will diversify our economy and create more local jobs right across the State.

“This report delivers on an important election commitment and will help to position Western Australia as an investment destination for low-emissions steel opportunities.”

Further reading:
First GREENSTEEL pellets made at Whyalla steelworks
Fortescue continues its green industry push

Picture: Fortescue Metals Group

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