Rio Tinto inks MOU to explore low-carbon iron production in Canada

Rio Tinto, Paul Wurth S.A., and SHS-Stahl-Holding-Saar GmbH & Co. KGaA (SHS) have teamed up and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore the viability of producing a low-carbon steel feedstock using green hydrogen in Canada.

Exploring low-carbon iron

The partnership is aimed at exploring the viability of transforming iron ore pellets into the low-carbon steel feedstock, low-carbon hot briquetted iron (HBI), using green hydrogen generated from hydro-electricity in Canada.

Transforming high-grade iron ore pellets into a low-carbon steel feedstock using green hydrogen, when processed in an electric arc furnace with carbon-free electricity, has the potential to reduce significantly the carbon emissions associated with steelmaking.

Three power houses join hands

The combined expertise of the three partners would be utilized across the entire steel value chain.

Leading global miner Rio Tinto would be in charge of supplying high-grade iron ores and expertise in mining, processing, and pelletising.

The international leader in the design and supply of engineering solutions for integrated steelmakers, Paul Wurth S.A, would bring in the expertise in plant building and process knowledge in the field of highly efficient hydrogen generation, as well as Midrex® direct reduction plants.

SHS-Stahl-Holding-Saar GmbH & Co. KGaA, one of Europe’s best-known steelmakers, would bring in the deep iron and steel making expertise to the partnership.

Canada was chosen as the location for the project due to Rio Tinto’s significant presence in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada also provides access to cost competitive hydro-electricity, and is close to key markets in Europe and North America.

Feasibility study this year

The partners announced that they are planning a feasibility study into the potential development of industrial scale low-carbon iron production in Canada. The feasibility study is expected to be completed by late 2021. Post the feasibility study, an investment decision would be taken on a hydrogen based direct reduction plant at industrial scale.

Comments from partners

IOC president and chief executive officer Clayton Walker said: “This partnership is part of Rio Tinto’s climate strategy to pursue pro-active and action-oriented partnerships to support the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies for hard-to-abate processes like steelmaking.

We are absolutely committed to being part of the solution on climate change and to support our customers and other stakeholders in the steel value chain as the industry transitions to a low-carbon future.”

CEO of Paul Wurth S.A, Georges Rassel said: “This collaboration reflects Paul Wurth’s strategy to support our customers from the very beginning of their projects as a reliable and trusted partner. By associating the different players of the metal production chain, we are confident to develop the most appropriate and efficient solutions for this challenging transition towards a carbon neutral industry.”

SHS-Stahl-Holding Saar’s member of the Board of Directors for Technology Martin Baues said: “Dillinger and Saarstahl adopted a future-focused strategy with the motto ‘proactive, carbon-free and efficient’. Within this strategy, we have defined various options for the transformation to carbon-neutral steel production. The use of hydrogen in steel production is a key factor in reducing carbon emissions.

This partnership can further help us to reduce our carbon emissions on the basis of this technology, while gaining important experience in using hydrogen in steel production.”

Written By Jonathan Norris
Jonathan is a founder of and has been covering the resources industry since 2018. With over 17 years experience in print, broadcast and online media, Jonathan has seen first hand the transformative effect of online niche media.