One of the greatest challenges in overcoming the threats of climate change is the adaptation of industrial processes away from fossil fuels. Iron as one of the most important industrial materials is at the centre of this transition.
Every year 1, 9 billion tonnes of iron are produced globally, two-thirds of which originate from primary production, i.e., the extraction of iron ore, whereas one third use recycled materials. Iron production currently relies entirely on fossil fuels. As a result, the iron industry accounts for approximately 8% of annual global Greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the most significant drivers of climate change.
Not only regulators and investors demand a transition towards more environmentally friendly produced iron: Increasingly, customers all over the world are recognising the impacts of their purchasing decisions, rapidly growing the demand for sustainable products.
HyIron was established through a partnership between Namibian and German companies that work in the field of renewable energies and engineering. At its heart is the HyIron technology, an innovative process to reduce iron ore with the help of green hydrogen, thus becoming entirely carbon neutral. The Oshivela project in Namibia, boasting an annual production potential of 1 million tonnes of iron, is forecasted to mitigate 1, 8 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions each year.
With an initial investment of N$600 million, the Oshivela project will be the first application of the HyIron technology at an industrial scale with an anticipated launch in late 2024. At an initial output of 15, 000 tonnes per year, the plant will demonstrate that industrial scale green iron production is economically and technically feasible. Due to a modular construction model, production can easily be scaled up to significantly larger outputs.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for November 6, 2023, in Arandis.
The initial plant in Namibia will see the first industrial production of green iron in the world.
Renewable energy will replace fossil fuels in the conventional production process, powered by a solar and wind energy plant.
“In the initial phase, a 20MW solar photovoltaic installation will provide carbon-free electricity to the plant. As production scales up, an additional 18MW of wind energy and 140MW of solar energy will be integrated. This power plant will primarily supply energy for water electrolysis to produce hydrogen, the reduction agent. The hydrogen will then be transported to the furnace, where it will react with the iron ore’s oxygen at ambient pressure, ultimately forming water. This water will be reused within the process,” the company said.
When operational, the Oshivela project is anticipated to become one of the largest primary green iron production sites globally. At this stage, it is projected to reduce annual CO₂ emissions by 27,000 metric tonnes, equivalent to 50% of Namibia’s power industry emissions, as per the developers’ estimates. If applied to the necessary additional production capacities of 300 million tonnes by 2030, this could result in a yearly reduction of 540 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions, making a substantial contribution to the fight against climate change.
According to the developers, the project is poised to address the growing global demand for iron, which is projected to rise from the current 1, 9 billion tonnes annually to 2, 2 billion tonnes by 2030, necessitating an increase in production capacities by 50 million tonnes each year.