Tuesday 19 October 2021

Tata Steel vows to go for hydrogen power, pledges big shift in eight years

The IJmuiden plant at night. Photo: Tata Steel

Steel maker Tata Steel, under fire from politicians and campaign groups about pollution and health risks, has said it plans to speed up the transition from traditional coal-fired blast furnaces to hydrogen.

The company will undergo a metamorphosis within eight years, director Hans van den Berg said on Wednesday.  ‘IJmuiden will change into a manufacturing site with fewer chimneys… we will work closely together with local and national authorities and our direct neighbours to become a green steel manufacturer in a clean environment,’ Van den Berg said.

The company’s controversial plan to achieve the 2030 climate goals by capturing carbon dioxide and storing it in depleted gas fields under the North Sea has also been scrapped.

The clean energy plan has been well received by both MPs and unions but, the Financieele Dagblad points out, many questions remain about how feasible and affordable it is. One thing is clear, the paper said. Without extensive financial support, green steel from IJmuiden is utopia.

Van den Berg did not want to put a price tag on the hydrogen route, but did say that government subsidies would be ‘indispensable’. Trade union FNV Metaal suggested earlier that a switch to hydrogen will cost €1.4bn.

So far, the government has earmarked approximately €100 million for the development of hydrogen as a power source.

Availability

Availability is also a problem, the FD points out. Green hydrogen is made with sustainable energy from wind farms and solar meadows and the steel company needs no less than six gigawatts of sustainably power for the production of green steel. This year, however, Dutch offshore wind farms will have total capacity of is 2.5 gigawatts, the FD said.

Tata Steel Nederland has a direct workforce of some 11,000, of whom 9,000 work in IJmuiden, but provides work for thousands more.

Van den Berg was speaking ahead of a second parliamentary debate on the problems at the IJmuiden plant.

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