Nat Commun. 2023 May 4;14(1):2578. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-38123-2.
The steel sector currently accounts for 7% of global energy-related CO2 emissions and requires deep reform to disconnect from fossil fuels. Here, we investigate the market competitiveness of one of the widely considered decarbonisation routes for primary steel production: green hydrogen-based direct reduction of iron ore followed by electric arc furnace steelmaking. Through analysing over 300 locations by combined use of optimisation and machine learning, we show that competitive renewables-based steel production is located nearby the tropic of Capricorn and Cancer, characterised by superior solar with supplementary onshore wind, in addition to high-quality iron ore and low steelworker wages. If coking coal prices remain high, fossil-free steel could attain competitiveness in favourable locations from 2030, further improving towards 2050. Large-scale implementation requires attention to the abundance of suitable iron ore and other resources such as land and water, technical challenges associated with direct reduction, and future supply chain configuration.
PMID:37142622 | PMC:PMC10160127 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-023-38123-2