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ArcelorMittal Ghent to use biocoal from Perpetual Next

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ArcelorMittal Ghent has chosen to use biocoal from Dutch company Perpetual Next in its steel production process.

The company is starting a pilot to use biocoal as a high-quality partial replacement for fossil coal. The partnership between Perpetual Next and ArcelorMittal in Ghent starts with an initial delivery of 30,000 tonnes of biocoal to the Ghent blast furnace, which can be scaled up to 350,000 tonnes of biocoal annually.

Global steel production was 1.86 billion tonnes in 2020, 70% of which was produced in blast furnaces using fossil coal. Steel demand is expected to double from current levels by 2050, which could lead to a doubling of CO2 emissions with unchanged policies, said ArcellorMittal. This underlines the need for change: compared to using fossil coal, 2.5 tonnes of CO2 are saved per tonne of biocoal.

“With the application of our technology for ArcelorMittal in Ghent, we are opening up a new industry to help make it more sustainable,” said Martijn van Rheenen, CEO of Perpetual Next.

“The biocoal has such high-quality properties that it offers a partial replacement for fossil coal in applications such as the steel industry’s production process.

“In addition to reducing ArcelorMittal’s own CO2 emissions, this step gives ArcelorMittal’s clients the opportunity to reduce their so-called Scope 3 emissions, in line with the EU Fit for 55 programme presented by Frans Timmermans, European Commissioner and vice-president of the European Commission, on 14 July.”

Perpetual Next’s torrefaction technology converts biomass produced from Forest Steward Council (FSC) certified forests into biocoal, which has the same properties as fossil coal. With this technology, the raw materials are converted into biocoal through a thermal refining process. This creates a relatively affordable renewable raw material with high energy density. The patented technology is owned by Perpetual Next, which supplies biocoal from its own production facilities, as well as the technology, including the torrefaction reactors.

Manfred Van Blierberghe, CEO of ArcelorMittal Belgium, commented: “ArcelorMittal Belgium has the ambition to decarbonise its steel production faster and deeper than required by the Paris Agreement.

“We do not only want to reduce our carbon footprint, but also our waste footprint – our steel company has a roadmap towards zero carbon emissions and zero waste. We will do this step by step in a responsible way, and today’s announcement is one such step – partially replacing fossil carbon with biocoal.

“Perpetual Next’s torrefaction technology is a perfect fit with our XCarb® programme which brings together all of ArcelorMittal’s reduced, low and zero-carbon products and steelmaking activities, as well as wider initiatives and green innovation projects, into a single effort focused on achieving demonstrable progress towards net-zero steel.”