ArcelorMittal Belgium lifts bioreactors into place at its groundbreaking Steelanol plant for carbon-neutral steelmaking
ArcelorMittal Belgium has marked a major milestone in the construction of its pioneering Steelanol project, with the arrival and lifting of four giant bioreactors at the Gent steel plant.
The bioreactors, which will convert industrial gases captured during the steelmaking process into sustainable ethanol, are the central element of the installation, making their arrival and lifting the final major part of the Steelanol construction phase and the beginning of the next phase to install pipes and connect the equipment.
The four bioreactors were delivered by ship in March 2021. The subsequent transportation to the construction site required a well-coordinated operation in collaboration with heavy lifting specialists. After challenging heavy lifting activities over the past few weeks, all four bioreactors are now mounted in an upright position.
The EUR165m Steelanol plant, the first of its kind in Europe, will produce 80 million litres of sustainable ethanol a year, equivalent to nearly half of actual Belgium’s annual demand in a market for renewable ethanol with a large growth potential. The sustainable ethanol produced at the Steelanol plant can be used as fuel for transport or as a building block for producing chemicals.
With commissioning and first production expected in 2022, this marks an important step towards the circular use of carbon and the end of single-use carbon, whereby gases are no longer regarded as waste but as raw materials. In addition, the recycling of carbon means Steelanol’s process of ethanol production does not compete in any way with food crops or land for food crops, as is the case for ‘traditional’ ethanol.
The process implemented at this site, can not only use industrial gases from today’s steel production methods, but is fully flexible and can adapt as industry transitions to future steel production technologies with increased green hydrogen input. This enables the carbon recycling application to evolve as available residue and waste streams evolve.
The technology was developed by LanzaTech, with whom ArcelorMittal has entered a long-term partnership, together with Primetals Technologies and E4tech.
The process in the bioreactors
The conversion from industrial gas into sustainable ethanol takes place in four bioreactors, which can be considered the heart of the installation. Each bioreactor consists of a tank containing liquid, nutrients and naturally occurring micro-organisms. A key element of the process, created by LanzaTech, is to mix the gas well into the liquid, enabling the micro-organisms to complete the transformation of the carbon containing gas to ethanol in the most efficient conditions. To aim for maximal circularity, a water treatment installation enables the re-use of water, the recovery of valuable nutrients and the production of energy from obtained biogas.
Europe’s first gas fermentation plant
Manfred Van Vlierberghe, CEO ArcelorMittal Belgium: “ArcelorMittal Belgium has a passion for sustainability and circularity. We are heading to become the sustainable steel company of the future through new breakthrough technologies such as Steelanol. This technology contributes to strengthening our global leadership in terms of CO2 and energy efficiency in the steel sector. Steelanol is a strong asset towards our Europe-wide goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 2030, and of achieving carbon-neutral steelmaking by 2050.”
Jennifer Holmgren, CEO LanzaTech: “The leadership and commitment of governments and large companies like ArcelorMittal is needed to ensure single use carbon is a thing of the past. This significant milestone brings us closer to creating a circular carbon economy at a time when all sustainable solutions are required to solve our climate crisis.”
Funding for the Steelanol project, as well as Torero - a EUR 50m large-scale demonstration plant to convert waste wood into bio-coal for injection into the blast furnace - was obtained from various sources, including the Flemish government and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 656437. Part of the funding was also secured with a loan from the European Investment Bank.
LanzaTech is the global leader in gas fermentation technology. The company provides novel and economic routes to ethanol, jet fuel and high-value chemicals from gas streams.
Primetals Technologies, Limited, headquartered in London, United Kingdom, is a pioneer and world leader in the fields of engineering, plant building, and the provision of lifecycle services for the metals industry.
E4tech is an international strategic consultancy focused on sustainable energy. Since 1997 they have worked with companies, governments, and investors to help them understand the global opportunities and challenges of clean energy.
About ArcelorMittal Belgium
ArcelorMittal Belgium, with production sites in Ghent, Liège, Genk and Geel, employs 5,000 people. The total direct and indirect employment is estimated at 30,000 jobs. The company produces high-quality steel for the most diverse applications in the automotive sector and other industrial sectors such as the green energy sector, construction, white goods, packaging, etc.