Ground-breaking ceremony for Technical Center

Contribution to climate protection and the transition to renewables, BMBF provides funding of more than €60 million for Carbon2Chem.

Andreas Goss, Heinrich Hiesinger, Hannelore Kraft, Thomas Rachel and Reinhold Achatz (from left) perform the ground-breaking ceremony to launch the construction phase of the Carbon2Chem Technical Center.

At the Steel site in Duisburg the construction of a new Technical Center has begun. The Technical Center will play a key role in the Carbon2Chem development project.

The aim of Carbon2Chem is to utilize process gases from steel production – including the CO2 they contain – to manufacture chemicals. A further 16 partners from the areas of basic and applied research and various sectors of industry are involved in the project. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing funding totaling more than €60 million for Carbon2Chem.

The ground-breaking ceremony was performed by Hannelore Kraft, State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Thomas Rachel, MP and Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Heinrich Hiesinger, CEO of thyssenkrupp AG, and Andreas Goss, CEO of thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG.

“Climate protection made in NRW”

“Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time. In NRW we are pioneering intelligent climate protection that does not see industrial production as the problem, but instead recognizes it as part of the solution,” said Hannelore Kraft in her welcoming address. “There can be no location more suitable for the test facility than Duisburg, than North Rhine-Westphalia – it’s climate protection “made in NRW”.” Kraft also praised the close collaboration between industry and research.

Thomas Rachel commended the innovative capabilities behind the project: “We will show how to make production climate-friendly. Here at the thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG site we will demonstrate how fertilizers, plastic and fuels can be produced from steel mill gases to reduce CO2 and benefit the environment.” Rachel also emphasized that climate protection must always be socially compatible.

The Technical Center will translate the results of basic research to industrial scale. thyssenkrupp is investing €33.8 million in the building complex, which will cover an area of approx. 2,600 square meters. Added to this are around €10 million from the BMBF funding for fitting out and using the Technical Center. Completion is scheduled for spring 2018.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Heinrich Hiesinger emphasized that Carbon2Chem is a step toward the steel production of the future: “If the project is successful, it will significantly reduce CO2 emissions from steel production. At the same time Carbon2Chem can make an important contribution to stabilizing the power networks.” The energy required for the chemical processes is to come from renewable sources. Hiesinger motivated participants by quoting Lao Tzu saying “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. It will be at least ten years before Carbon2Chem can be utilized on an industrial scale. “Today we are taking the first concrete step on this journey.”

Andreas Goss made reference – above all with a view to the imminent CO2 emissions trading changes that could cost thyssenkrupp up to three billion euros – to the fact that our company would no longer exist in a largely CO2-free industry “because there would no longer be any blast furnaces due to the unavoidable CO2 emissions.” Goss focused on production improvements to date: “When it comes to operating our blast furnaces, we are so close to the theoretical ideal process that there is no more significant potential to leverage, including in terms of reducing CO2 emissions.” He also took the opportunity to emphasize his company’s capacity and willingness to innovate: “So it’s logical to look to the blast furnace gases themselves and seek solutions there. Carbon2Chem is an example of this approach.”

What makes Carbon2Chem different?

At present, gases from steel production are burnt to produce electricity and heat for the production process. Carbon2Chem puts the gases at the start of a chemical production chain. This is possible because steel mill gases include hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon, the basis for numerous chemical products.

Carbon2Chem’s prospects of success are good because the basic chemical processes and required technologies are largely known. It is already technically possible to convert process gases from steel production into ammonia as a starting product for fertilizers, though not yet cost-efficiently. At least ten years of development work will be needed before Carbon2Chem is ready for industrial-scale use.

Carbon2Chem is characterized by broad-based, cross-industry cooperation. It will create a new network of steel production, electricity generation and chemical production. These sectors play a key role for North Rhine-Westphalia and employ more than 180,000 people in the state.