The company’s president Eiji Hashimoto said there was only one way to overcome the unique difficulties the steel industry faced in the context of climate change and that was to supply carbon neutral steel ahead of its global competitors.
The company has several options to pursue including carbon capture, but also using hydrogen instead of coal in the production process.
Nippon, which owns a stake in Queensland’s Grosvenor coal mine and imported 31 million tonnes of coking coal from Australia in 2o20, has previously said its plans to reach carbon neutrality would mean a shift to hydrogen as an energy source.
But it said it faced “innovation with an extremely high hurdle”.
The company has targeted producing about 700,000 tonnes of steel that would not emit carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process. Currently, most steel production is carbon intensive because it uses coal.
“If we make steel with energy that is carbon neutral, then the steel itself if carbon neutral too,” Hashimoto said.
The steel industry emits 14 per cent of all CO2 emissions in Japan and in 2020 Nippon announced a policy to reach net zero emissions by 2050 through the replacement of coal with hydrogen.
The coal sector is already facing the threat of hydrogen from European steel producers, but the impact so far has been small and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to huge demand for the coking and thermal coal.
Also, American company Aymium announced it had entered into a long-term supply contract for a coal replacement product in power generation with Hokuriku Electric Power Company and Nippon Steel Trading.
Aymium’s renewable product converts biomass to high purity biocarbon and biogas.