Promotion of innovative technology development

Technical Issues for realizing a carbon-neutral production process

In nature, iron exists as oxidized iron ore. To produce steel products, oxygen must be removed (= reduced) from iron ore. This reduction process has been carried out by the blast furnace (BF) and the basic oxygen furnace (BOF), using carbon such as coal.

In this process, coal (coke) is 1) a reducing agent, 2) a source of heat, and 3) plays a role to support the function of raw materials at high temperature in a solid form while facilitating to maintain ventilation in the furnace. Although the coal (coke) has been utilized in a continuous, efficient steelmaking from iron ore, CO2 is inevitably generated during the reduction reaction.

We are therefore drastically reviewing this process and plans to reduce CO2 emissions by replacing coal (coke) as a reducing agent with hydrogen to produce H2O instead of carbon in the reduction.

However, as reduction with hydrogen is an endothermic reaction, the temperature drop in the furnace causes problems such as the reaction not being sustained and the iron not melting. In order to realize hydrogen steelmaking, we are tackling these problems by development of breakthrough technologies such as 1) high-temperature heating of flammable hydrogen, 2) securing of gas flow in the furnace, 3) additional melting process, and 4) large-scale production for production.

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Reduction with carbon vs. hydrogen

Challenge of developing breakthrough technologies

(1)Reduction with hydrogen in blast furnaces

Japan’s three blast furnace steelmakers and Nippon Steel Engineering have been developing the COURSE50 blast furnace, which partially replaces carbon used in the furnace as a reducing agent with the hydrogen-rich gas generated in the integrated steel mill. We have already verified that the technology can reduce CO2 emissions in the test furnace. We plan to start demonstration of the COURSE50 at Kimitsu No. 2 blast furnace in the second half of fiscal 2025 as a Green Innovation Fund project.

Our subsequent plan is to install a working COURSE50 blast furnace by fiscal 2030, work on solving the issues related to the endothermic reaction and the scale-up of the furnace, and to develop the Super COURSE50 technology so that we can reduce the blast furnace CO2 emissions by 50% using additional hydrogen from outside. The goal is completion of the implementation by 2050.

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The COURSE50 Project  (Environment-friendly process technology development)1

Since 2008, the COURSE50 Project has been developing technologies to lower CO2 emissions by 30%: a 10% lowering emissions from a blast furnace by adopting technologies to reduce iron ore by use of hydrogen and a 20% offset by CO2 capture from BF gas. In the hydrogen steel making, a 10% reduction of CO2 emissions has been verified at a 12 m3 experimental blast furnace at the Kimitsu Area of the East Nippon Works and we also undertook simulation for the size of an actual blast furnace, moving the project closer to adoption of this innovative reduction technologies in commercial-use blast furnaces.

1 Commissioned project by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)

COURSE50 Project by NEDO and JISF

The Super COURSE50 Project2

The COURSE50 project focuses on the technology for reducing the amount of carbon to be injected into blast furnaces. This is done by using by-product gas generated in integrated steel mills, which is currently used in furnaces. The project aims at realizing the hydrogen steelmaking in some degree, given the current circumstances, under which there is no social infrastructure for supplying large volumes of hydrogen. For achieving the Carbon Neutral Vision, however, we should be ready for the time when the infrastructure can provide sufficient hydrogen supply. We then need to take up the challenge for COURSE50 Project by NEDO and JISF Super COURSE50 — a project to reduce the amount of carbon in the blast furnace by purchasing hydrogen from outside the steel mill and further increasing the amount of hydrogen injection into the furnace.

In fiscal 2020 we started R&D for the Super COURSE50 project, as part of the program for technology development for achieving zero carbon steel research, at NEDO. The project became a Green Innovation Fund project in 2021.

2 The Green Innovation Fund “Hydrogen utilization in iron and steelmaking processes” project (NEDO’s R&D outsourcing support and assistance project)

(2)High-grade steel production in large-sized EAFs

In fiscal 2022, the new electric arc furnace (EAF) started commercial operation at the Setouchi Works Hirohata Area, and we will accumulate knowledge of high-grade steelmaking in an EAF through the commercial production of electrical steel sheet in this world’s first such integrated steelmaking arrangement. At the same time, we are developing high-grade steelmaking technology in large electric furnaces in a Green Innovation Fund project. As a part of the project, we will set up a small EAF (capacity: 10 tons) in the Hasaki R&D Center and start experiments in fiscal 2024.

Our subsequent plans are to establish technology to produce highgrade steel that can be used for automobile outer panels, by using direct reduced iron with hydrogen from low-grade iron ore and also using steel scrap as materials. By controlling the impurity concentration using a largesized EAF process (approximately 300 tons in processing volume), similar volume as BF-BOF process, we will establish the technology by fiscal 2030.

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(3)100% hydrogen use in direct reduction process

In the 100% hydrogen use in direct reduction, we try zero CO2 emissions in reduction process by fully using hydrogen as the reducing agent. Since this process produces solid direct reduced iron (DRI), it is necessary to melt it and separate out its gangue component (the material present together with ore) in the subsequent process such as in the blast furnace (BF) or EAF.

Most of the actual direct reduction methods currently use high-grade iron ore, which is not easily broken or sticked to each other, during the reduction process. As the high-grade one is limited to about 10% of iron ore available in the market, we will challenge to use lower-grade iron ore in the process. Current DRI process uses methane (natural gas) as the reducing agent. Methane contains carbon and hence emits CO2. We try 100% use of hydrogen as the reducing agent in the direct reduction process. The process, however, has its own high technical issues, too. Since the reduction process with hydrogen is an endothermic reaction, it is necessary to supply heat to maintain the reaction. In addition, in the case of using a shaft furnace, powdering of the raw material pellets, and sticking of produced iron pellets are the problems to be solved.

As a Green Innovation Fund project, we will build a small furnace (10 tons) in the Hasaki R&D Center and start experiments in fiscal 2025. Then, by 2050, we aim to solve issues such as utilization of low-grade iron ore and conversion of reduction material from natural gas to hydrogen, and to commercialize a direct hydrogen reduction reactor using low-grade iron ore from Australia and other countries as feedstock.

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Efforts toward stable procurement of hydrogen

Nippon Steel has a strong interest in hydrogen from a variety of perspectives, including the fact that we have the potential to become one of Japan’s leading hydrogen users in the future (we estimate that the amount of hydrogen needed to be carbon neutral at our company will exceed 7 million tons per year), the need to realize a lower hydrogen price than other industries need3, and that we are a major supplier of steel for hydrogen infrastructure.

We therefore participate in various hydrogen-related councils promoted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Energy Agency, as well as the cross-sectional network that includes hydrogen-related industries such as energy, automobiles, and chemicals, and various organizations. We are also mindful of working with the system design, not only for Nippon Steel but for the entire steel industry, when needed.

Concerning the overseas procurement of hydrogen, we are considering cooperation with overseas resource majors, who may potentially supply hydrogen to us. We are thus active on a wide and widening front.

3 Target hydrogen cost of ¥20/Nm3 or less in the METI’s “Green Growth Strategy through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050,” compared to the current hydrogen cost equivalent to coking coal of approx. ¥8/Nm3.

Efforts to reduce carbon emission in power generation

We generate 89% of the electricity we use at steelworks, 75% of which is from internally generated energy sources such as waste heat and by-product gases. We also use LNG, petroleum, and coal as external-source auxiliary fuels. Therefore, in order to reduce the carbon content of our electric power structure, we will eliminate all use of inefficient coal-fired power, increase efficiency of thermal power fired by by-products, and utilize CCUS. We will also consider use of non-fossil fuels for external auxiliary fuels (expanded use of zero-emission fuels such as biomass, ammonia, and hydrogen) and purchase of green power.

Issues to consider and promote reducing carbon in the electric power structure
  • Total elimination of inefficient coal-fired power
  • Increase efficiency in thermal power fired by by-products, utilization of CCUS, and use of non-fossil fuels for external auxiliary fuels (expanded use of zero-emission fuels such as biomass, ammonia, and hydrogen)
  • Purchase of green power

CCUS technology development

CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage) is a technology that separates, captures, and stores CO2 in the ground, or directly uses CO2 or converts it into other materials and utilizes it. In the carbon neutral steel production process, CCUS technology is used to process CO2 still generated from the steelmaking process even after it has been minimized.

Realization of this technology requires the related technology development as well as preparation of external conditions. The required technologies include development and installment of CO2 separation and recovery technology (high-performance chemical adsorption liquid) and power, increase efficiency of thermal power fired by by-products, and utilize CCUS. We will also consider use of non-fossil fuels for external auxiliary fuels (expanded use of zero-emission fuels such as biomass, ammonia, and hydrogen) and purchase of green power. development of CO2-based manufacturing technologies for chemicals and fuels. The necessary external conditions include the securing of the storage space, the establishment of the storage infrastructure for CCS, legislation, and tax incentives, the ensuring of business profitability of chemicals and fuels manufactured by CCU (Carbon Capture and Utilization), and preferential treatment of carbon recycled products. The Nippon Steel Group is aggressively engaged in developing these technologies to help realize social implementation of CCUS.

Nippon Steel Group’s CCUS technology development efforts


CO2 Separation and Recovery Technology
(subsidized by the Green Innovation Fund)

Nippon Steel Engineering Co. in the Nippon Steel Group has commercialized an energy-saving CO2 chemical absorption process called ESCAP™(Energy Saving CO2 Absorption Process), which uses chemical absorption, one of the methods for CO2 separation and recovery. Two units are already in operation in Japan, including the one installed in the North Nippon Works Muroran Area.

The ESCAP™ is characterized by high energy efficiency with a more than 40% reduction in heat consumption compared to general-purpose technology. In addition, its proprietary impurity removal facility enables recovery of more than 99.9% of high-purity CO2 from raw material gas with high impurities.

In recognition of this high energy efficiency and practicality, Nippon Steel, Nippon Steel Engineering, and the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) received the Ichimura Global Environmental Industry Award for Contribution for this joint development in fiscal 2021.

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Flowsheet of ESCAP™


CO2 Transport Vessel Technology
(subsidized as the NEDO Project)

Jointly with Japan CCS Co., Engineering Advancement Association of Japan, and ITOCHU Corporation, we have commenced the R&D and demonstration project relatedto a CO2 transport vessel.


CO2 storage technology

Nippon Steel and deepC Store Limited signed a joint study agreement concerning the liquefaction, maritime transport and storage of CO2 in the hub project (C Store1) of large-scale offshore floating capturing and transporting of liquefied CO2.

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©deepC Store Limited

Utilization of steel for CO2 storage

Nippon Steel’s high-alloy seamless steel pipes, with high corrosion resistance even in a high-density CO2 environment, are used in the CCS project in the European North Sea and in the wells of a joint research on CO2-based technologies for the promotion of crude oil recovery in Agano City, Niigata Prefecture.


Manufacturing technology of chemical products made from CO2
(subsidized by the Green Innovation Fund)

  • Nippon Steel and Toyama University are jointly developing a catalytic technology to synthesize CO2 and hydrogen, and produce industrial paraxylene, a feedstock material for polyesters such as polyester fibers and plastic bottles.
  • Nippon Steel, Tohoku University, and Osaka City University are jointly developing a catalytic process to synthesize polycarbonate intermediates from CO2 at normal pressure.


Absorption and fixation by marine life
(subsidized as the NEDO Project)

  • Develop and commercialize technology to create seaweed beds (blue carbon ecosystem) by using fertilizers made of steel slag, a by-product of steelmaking, in coastal areas.


Our development and technological prowess

R&D staff (non-consol.) 800
atents (non-consol.) Japan14,000 Overseas16,000

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