Cleveland-Cliffs Holds Groundbreaking Hydrogen Trial at the Indiana Harbor

Cleveland-Cliffs Holds Groundbreaking Hydrogen Trial at the Indiana Harbor

Anybody that lives within range of Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline knows the dichotomy of the area. It features both incredibly beautiful beach landscapes juxtaposed with heavy industrial sites – a very unique vista to experience if you’re not from the region. In a way, it’s both dirty and clean. But thanks to a groundbreaking new trial that was conducted by Cleveland-Cliffs at the Indiana Habor, the area’s future might just become a whole lot cleaner.


Hydrogen Injection

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., one of the world’s largest steel producers, successfully completed a hydrogen injection trial at its Indiana Harbor #7 blast furnace in East Chicago, IN early this year. This event was a major step forward for the decarbonization of the steel industry, and it took place at the largest blast furnace in North America.

Hydrogen injection is important in steelmaking because it can dramatically reduce emissions. It’s kind of mind-blowing how it works.

According to the AISE Steel Foundation, “Integrated steelmaking begins with the production of liquid iron. Further processing in the Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) vessel then transforms this liquid iron into steel by blowing high rates of oxygen to remove much of the carbon and removes other impurities in the metal to make steel. As steelmaking evolves and improves in methods to reduce CO2 emissions, high rates of hydrogen (H2) gas are being used instead of using only coke in this process. This substitution of H2 for coke in the process effectively reduces the CO2 produced as an off gas and instead water is the byproduct.”

The trial that took place at Indiana Harbor #7 represents the second Cleveland-Cliffs blast furnace to utilize hydrogen as a reductant and fuel source, following the successful trial at Middletown Works in May of 2023.

Indiana Harbor #7 is among the largest blast furnaces in the entire world, both in size and production capacity. It also compares favorably against similar equipment in Japan, Korea, China, or Europe, for its technological capability to support the production of high-end steels, including highly specified automotive feedstock.

Lourenco Goncalves, Cleveland-Cliffs chairman, president, and chief executive officer, said, “We are proud of our ability to be ahead of the curve in using this cutting-edge technology to decarbonize, while maintaining both our efficiency and the high standard of quality that comes with steel produced via the blast furnace route. As the American iron and steel leader, we are proud that we are ahead of the rest of the world in using the technologies that make our blast furnace steel the cleanest in the world, including using iron ore pellets, natural gas injection, HBI, and now hydrogen.”


New Pipeline for this Trial

In order to conduct this type of hydrogen injection trial, Cleveland-Cliffs first needed some new infrastructure. Not long before the trial took place, the company recently completed the commissioning of the hydrogen pipeline at Indiana Harbor that was used for this trial.

This pipeline was reportedly completed in advance of schedule, below budget, and without incident. Officials have said this new pipeline is itself a significant achievement toward the company’s future greenhouse gas reduction efforts.


Where Does the Hydrogen Come From?

For the recent trial at Indiana Harbor #7, Cleveland-Cliffs partnered with hydrogen gas supplier Linde. The company said their contributions were valuable for this project.

In the coming years, companies like Cleveland-Cliffs and other steelmakers may have a network of new hydrogen sources dotted throughout the country.

Late last year, the Department of Energy awarded funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for several hydrogen hubs, including the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2). MachH2 is expected to generate numerous sources of clean hydrogen production across the Midwest, including in Northwest Indiana near Cleveland-Cliffs’ two largest steel plants, Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor.

Cleveland-Cliffs has publicly pledged its willingness to procure clean hydrogen from production members of this hub. Officials said these developments “mark a major step forward for the continuation of aggressive CO2 emissions reductions.”

“[This] announcement marks the very beginning of a new era in steel producing. With Clean Hydrogen in our backyard, Cliffs’ hydrogen-ready blast furnaces and Direct Reduction plant will be first in the world to replace CO2 with a new byproduct that does not contribute to global warming: this new byproduct will be H20,” Goncalves said.


Milestone for NWI

The hydrogen injection trial conducted by Cleveland-Cliffs is a major milestone for Northwest Indiana’s industrial economy, our beautiful natural resources, and all of the industries that benefit from the region’s steel output. Moving forward, it will definitely be exciting to witness all the changes happening in steelmaking. As this critical manufacturing sector becomes cleaner through the introduction of new technologies and production methods, all kinds of positive economic and environmental opportunities will arise for future generations of Hoosiers.

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