Investment in hydrogen and increased circularity in Västerbotten's metal industry
Tillväxtverket (the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth) and the Just Transition Fund have granted SEK 24 million to develop a long-term sustainable and competitive metal industry in Västerbotten, northern Sweden. The project, led by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, will examine the conditions for increased production and use of hydrogen gas, and how increased circularity can reduce the amount of waste and climate impact from the mining and metal industry in Västerbotten.
The project will be conducted in close collaboration with Luleå University of Technology, Swerim (metals research institute) and several regional actors.
"The aim is to better understand the opportunities and development paths for more efficient resource utilization and increased sustainability in the value chains for metals", says Karin Ågren, project manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
With its reserves of forests, metals, minerals and energy, Västerbotten is an attractive region in the climate transition, and investments in green technology and industry are proceeding at a rapid pace. This creates business opportunities but also poses challenges, for example in the field of energy, where there is a need for new ways of working climate-smart. Therefore, the project will map the amount of hydrogen that can be produced in the region today and in the near future, as well as the possible applications for hydrogen and the industries that are relevant to the transition.
"An increased use of hydrogen can be a significant contribution to the climate transition that is required to reduce Swedish greenhouse gas emissions", says Karin Ågren.
Another objective of the project is to improve circularity and reduce waste from the mining and metals industry. The resources currently wasted by smelters and mines will be mapped, and new uses for these residual flows will be tested.
In one of the work packages led by Luleå University of Technology, studies will be conducted to develop concrete products based on gangue. Sweden is one of Europe's major metal producers, generating about 120 million tonnes of mining waste per year. The waste in the form of gangue from non-ferrous mining is currently removed and landfilled. Storage of reactive waste is one of the most critical environmental challenges for the mining industry, and results in large quantities of sulphate and metal-rich sludge that require specialized treatment.
The project will also include work in the foundry industry in Västerbotten. In the production of grey and ductile iron, fossil carbon is used as an alloying agent. In a work package led by Swerim, experiments will be carried out to replace the fossil carbon with renewable carbon sources, i.e. biochar. Digital models will be developed to show different scenarios and map the changes in material and energy flows resulting from the technology shift from fossil coal to biochar.
"IVL is delighted with the positive project decision. Together with our project partners, we will contribute to increased knowledge about the importance of hydrogen and the metal industry's circular flows. This is central to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the metal industry, but also to supporting regional development and the transition that is currently under way in Västerbotten and the whole of northern Sweden", says Aurora Pelli, business development manager at IVL's northern Sweden office in Skellefteå.
Hydrogen and circularity in Västerbotten's metal industry is funded with SEK 24 million from the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and the Just Transition Fund, which is part of the European Green Deal. It runs until 2026 and is a collaborative project between IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Luleå University of Technology and Swerim. The other project partners are Region Västerbotten, Västerbotten County Administrative Board, Boliden Mineral, Envigas, Norrlands Gjuteri and Kåge Gjutmek.