India is looking at developing its own pure-hydrogen based DRI (direct reduction of iron) technology to be used in making of green steel. The process will be unique to the country and the detailed project report so prepared “is under – scrutiny” across ministries, a senior government official aware of the discussions, told businessline.

Industrial-scale hydrogen-iron making — also known as direct reduction of iron (DRI) using hydrogen — is where oxygen is removed from the iron-ore and instead of using high carbon emitting fossil fuels, the process is done using hydrogen, with the waste gas removed as water. The DRI so produced, also called sponge iron, is then fed into an electric arc furnace where electrodes generate a current to use it to produce steel.

“This technology is still developing and some of the ministries — such as steel and MNRE — and industry players like integrated steel makers and secondary steel-makers, are working together to get the pilots going on-ground,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

“Its an ambitious project,” the official added.

Sources aware of the discussions say that a pilot plant using pure hydrogen-based DRI making is being proposed in a “consortium mode”. It involves integrated (steel) players, secondary players and CSIR Lab (Council for Scientific & industrial Research) for development of the technology and necessary IP (intellectual property).

“The Scheme has been approved by MNRE (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) last month,” the official said.

Hydrogen can be extracted from hydrogen-bearing fuels such as natural gas and biogas, and from water using electrolysis. Primary source of hydrogen-production is currently natural gas, accounting for around three quarters of the annual global dedicated hydrogen production of around 70 million tonnes. At present, less than 0.1 per cent of global dedicated hydrogen production comes from water electrolysis.

Hydrogen in Steel Making

So far, there are two prominent avenues of hydrogen-usage in steel making, which are tapped in India.

The first involves injection of hydrogen in the tuyeres (a nozzle through which air is forced into a smelter or furnace) of the blast furnaces as a partial substitution of pulverized coal injection (PCI).

The second process is where mixing or blending of hydrogen with the natural gas or fossil fuel based reductants in the DRI furnaces is carried out. Hydrogen acts as a partial replacement of the Natural Gas.

“These two options can be deployed on a pilot scale in some units in India with partial support from the National Green Hydrogen Mission both in terms of capital grants and subsidised green hydrogen availability,” the official said adding advertisement for the selection of the participants under the more popular two modes will be issued soon.