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How to make steel with zero emissions: Fortescue's Andrew Forrest has two plans

Kitco News

In a talk published this week, iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest laid out ambitious plans for his company to fight climate change.

"I have a confession to make. The iron ore company I founded 18 years ago, Fortescue, generates just under 2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas every year," said Forrest, who gave a talk titled Oil vs Water: Confessions Of A Carbon Emitter. The presentation was a Boyer Lecture and was published by ABC Australia.

West Australian-based Fortescue Metals Group is a major iron ore miner. In 2020 the company had revenues of $12.8 billion and shipped 178.2 million tonnes of ore.

Forrest said the industry has to transition and emit less CO2.

"The answer isn't to stop mining iron ore, which is critical to the production of steel and humanity. The answer is to make steel using zero emission energy."

Forrest is betting on hydrogen as the key to getting there. He laid out two plans.

"You replace coal in the furnace with your old friend: hydrogen. But instead of emitting vast clouds of CO2, you emit nothing but water vapor. To strengthen the steel, just add the carbon separately. It bonds to the metal rather than dispersing into the atmosphere.

"The other way to make steel: the radical approach. is to scrap the blast furnace altogether and just zap the iron ore with renewable electricity."

Forrest said Fortescue is trialing both methods.

Forrest added urgency to his talk, calling it an urgent race.

"We have no idea how long the Anthropocene will last, but if we don't stop warming our planet, it will be geological history's shortest era."

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