FerroSilva is a project that has its origins in the "Unit Processes at the Department of Materials Science", at the Royal Institute of Technology - KTH in Stockholm. In the spring of 2020, FerroSilva won the KTH Innovation Award for best proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and in the spring of 2021, the Swedish Energy Agency, STEM, decided to co-finance a feasibility study that runs until the autumn of 2022.
The project consortium includes representatives from the steel industry, the forest industry, agriculture and KTH and Chalmers as research performers. FerroSilva is managed by MMM Management Advice and Kobolde & Partners AB.
Europe is investing large resources in converting the society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biomass with a very low climate impact, has its origins in forestry and agriculture and can be used for the production of biogas, biofuels, heat and electricity. Biogas and biofuels have generally seen a higher value added than heat and electricity and can potentially offer higher yields for forestry and agriculture, and also make larger amounts of biomass profitable to utilize.
Biogas in the form of synthetic gas or "syngas", which is mainly a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas, has the same composition and chemical properties as the reformed (fossil) natural gas used in today's production of sponge iron in shaft furnaces.
As more and more companies close blast furnaces in order to reduce their large carbon dioxide emissions and switch to scrap-based steel production, there is an imminent risk that there will be a shortage of high-quality scrap.
For Bergslagen's various special steel plants, this is a serious threat, which could be averted with locally produced sponge iron, tailored to the plants' need for high-quality raw materials.
Production of sponge iron in a shaft furnace with fossil natural gas is a known technology and is already available in a number of designs and for different production volumes. The development of processes for syngas from biomass has been intensive and today there are a number of different alternative approaches. However, these need to be verified. There must also be the integration of iron ore reduction and the production of syngas, as well as issues such as location, volumes, raw material supply, and logistics. The same applies to the supply of iron ore, which provides sponge iron of a quality suitable for the special steel industry.
Production of fossil-free sponge iron with hydrogen is currently being developed by a number of companies. In Sweden, this takes place within the well-known Hybrit project. Production of fossil-free hydrogen is suitable in regions that have access to large amounts of fossil-free electricity at very low prices. FerroSilva is suitable for regions with a good supply of biomass and does not have the same dependence on infrastructure for production and distribution of electricity.
In the new raw material situation that will prevail when Europe's blast furnaces are decommissioned, the world-leading Swedish special steel industry, which is scrap-based and has low carbon dioxide emissions, needs to secure the supply of good quality iron raw materials. Likewise, the supply of biomass from forests and agriculture should be used in the way that gives the highest yield. This will contribute to strengthening Sweden's trade balance.