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HYBRIT reaches milestone for the storage of fossil-free H2

SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall's HYBRIT pilot facility for the storage of fossil-free H2 gas is now in operation in Luleå. The rock cavern storage facility is the first of its kind in the world for storing fossil-free H2 gas. The two-year test period will now start and continue until 2024, which means that HYBRIT has taken another important step in developing the overall value chain for fossil-free iron and steel production.

After the inauguration of the pilot facility in June, initial pressure tests were conducted with water, which confirmed the facility’s mechanical stability, tightness and pressure capacity. The storage facility was then filled with H2 gas and even reached the maximum operating pressure of 250 bar. The commissioning of the pilot facility in Svartöberget has shown that the storage facility works according to its design and meets all safety requirements.

"The fact that this technology is now working is great news and is an important milestone in the development of a fossil-free value chain for ore-based iron and steel production. The use of large-scale hydrogen storage means that the industry will have a more robust and plannable supply of hydrogen from fossil-free electricity, even when the electricity system becomes more dependent on the weather. This enables us to make very efficient use of our fossil-free wind power production and store the hydrogen when the weather is very windy," said Mikael Nordlander, Director Industry Decarbonization, Vattenfall.

"It’s very positive for us that the hydrogen gas storage pilot facility is up and running and that the technology has worked as it should up to now. That's another important milestone. Now we'll bring the plan to completion with test campaigns and collect important data and knowledge to make a full-scale facility possible," said Martin Pei, CTO at SSAB.

"Hydrogen gas and its storage are central to our transition. In just four years, HYBRIT technology will be used to produce fossil-free sponge iron on a large scale at a first demonstration facility in Gällivare. LKAB will become one of Europe’s biggest hydrogen producers, and this pilot project will provide valuable knowledge for the continuing work on creating the world’s first fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry," said Lars Ydreskog, Director of Strategic Projects at LKAB.

The technology for the storage of gas in an underground lined rock cavern (LRC) involves the cavern walls being lined with a sealing layer. LRCs have been thoroughly tested with natural gas, but the pilot facility in Luleå is the first in the world to test the technology with repeated filling and emptying of H2 gas.

The pilot facility's size is 100 m3, and at a later stage it may be necessary to keep 100,000 to 120,000 m3 of pressurized H2 gas in a full-scale storage. This means that we can store up to 100 GWh of electricity in the form of H2 gas, which is enough to supply a full-size sponge iron factory for about three to four days.

The HYBRIT initiative was launched in 2016 by the three owners: SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. The H2 storage facility will play a very important role in the overall value chain for fossil-free iron and steel production. By producing fossil-free H2 gas when there is a lot of electricity, for example when it is very windy, and using stored H2 gas when the electricity system is under strain, will ensure production of sponge iron, the raw material behind fossil-free steel.

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