A groundbreaking green steel facility and a combined green/blue hydrogen project at an oil refinery are among the seven winners of a total of €1.1bn ($1.25bn) in grants from the EU’s Innovation Fund.

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The Hybrit (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) pilot project in Sweden — a joint venture between utility Vattenfall, mining company LKAB and steel firm SSAB — has already made headlines around the world after producing the first ever fossil-fuel-free steel last year and delivering the first shipment of “green steel” to Volvo in August.

The innovative project uses hydrogen instead of coke (a form of coal) to provide both the high-temperature heat and oxygen removal required to turn iron ore (iron oxides) into pure sponge iron, in a process known as reduction.

The multi-million-euro grant will go towards the large-scale Hybrit demonstration phase, which will produce about 1.2 million tonnes of crude steel annually — a quarter of Sweden’s yearly production. This phase includes a new facility for hydrogen-based direct reduction, 500MW of electrolysers and two new electric-arc furnaces to melt scrap steel.

“The project will thus lead the way to a full energy transition of the ore-based steel production as access to renewable energy increases,” said the Hybrit joint venture in a statement.

An €88m grant will also be received by Finnish oil refiner Neste for its Sustainable Hydrogen and Recovery of Carbon (SHARC) project.

This scheme will see a renewable-energy-powered 50MW electrolyser installed at its Porvoo refinery near Helsinki, as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities to remove the bulk of emissions from its grey hydrogen production — thus making both green and blue H2 at the same site.

Hydrogen is used in the oil refining process to remove sulphur from crude oil.

“SHARC will also scale the production of green hydrogen to help make it a viable transportation fuel itself,” according to a project description in the EU grant literature.

“We are proud to have been selected as one of the seven granted projects out of more than 300 applicants in one of the world’s largest funding programs for the demonstration of innovative low-carbon technologies,” said Neste CEO Peter Vanacker.

“The funding for this project strongly supports our ambition to make Porvoo the most sustainable refinery in Europe by 2030.”

The other projects selected by the EU Innovation Fund are:

  • Air Liquide’s Kairos-at-C CCS project in Antwerp, Belgium
  • A new pilot factory line in Sicily for Enel Green Power’s bifacial heterojunction solar cells
  • Stockholm Exergi’s bioenergy CCS facility in Stockholm
  • Eqiom’s clean cement project (with CCS) in northern France
  • Ecoplanta’s municipal-solid-waste-to-methanol facility in northeastern Spain