The Swedes are leading the race to develop the world’s first “green steel”, with a consortium lead by European steel, iron ore and power producers SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall announcing the delivery of the first fossil free steel from their Hybrit project.

The Hybrit consortium first refined steel pellets by replacing coke as a reducing agent with renewable hydrogen in July.

The product is off the production line and has been delivered to automaker Volvo in what its proponents are claiming as a major technical breakthrough.

“The first fossil-free steel in the world is not only a breakthrough for SSAB, it represents proof that it’s possible to make the transition and significantly reduce the global carbon footprint of the steel industry,” SSAB president and CEO Martin Lindqvist said.

“We hope that this will inspire others to also want to speed up the green transition.”

The companies collectively announced the production of the first fossil fuel-free sponge iron in June before converting it to green steel in July.

Steel production is regarded as one of the hardest to decarbonise sectors in the world, producing as much as 7% of global emissions.

The conundrum is that steel is essential not just in basic, everyday infrastructure but also in the very technologies needed to produce clean energy, like wind turbines.

Aside from emissions involved in producing and transporting iron ore, smelting and refining steel via traditional blast furnace operations is reliant on metallurgical coal as a reducing agent and ultra-high temperatures.

Hydrogen processes like Hybrit are among the leading candidates to steer steel makers through the energy transition, with Wood Mackenzie analysts predicting the sector will need to cut emissions by 75% by 2050.

SSAB says the Hybrit technology, which has been developed over the past five years, could be commercialised by 2026, reducing Sweden’s overall emissions by approximately ten per cent and Finland’s by around seven per cent.

Twiggy Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) announced success producing “high purity green iron” at a test scale in July. His support of green steel is part and parcel with the FMG chairman’s new direction as a climate action advocate.