The rumors were already there and now the Swedish SSAB and Tata Steel have confirmed it. A takeover of Tata Steel Netherlands is currently being discussed. Another solution is being sought for the UK branch, which has been losing for years.
Initial reactions from IJmuiden, the unions and the cabinet are positive, although caution is advised as nothing is known about the conditions. The Swedes are discussing this with the Indian parent company. It is well known that SSAB is recognized in the steel industry as a pioneer in making steel production more sustainable.
Sustainability is also urgently needed in the Netherlands. Because if all coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands are closed in ten years, Tata Steel IJmuiden will be the last company in the Netherlands that is currently operated in coal-fired power plants. The steel mill in IJmuiden now emits as much CO2 as more than half of all passenger cars in the Netherlands.
The environment complains of constant rain and there are concerns about children’s health, the RIVM is investigating. And the prosecution has opened a criminal investigation into violating environmental laws.
Hydrogen or CO2 separation?
According to Piet Joustra, director of a Hoogovens department in the 1990s, a takeover by the Swedish SSAB would be a very good step when it comes to sustainability. Today Joustra chairs a group of economists and former directors who want the steel company to switch to methods of making steel without coal much faster. This year they wrote a plan for Tata Steel IJmuiden to “step into the decades to come”.
“SSAB has a pilot facility that is making carbon-free steel from green hydrogen. That means they have chosen this route at the company level,” says Joustra. “It’s good when you have a mother who sees this as the right way to go to carbon-free steel.”
The current Tata Steel IJmuiden pipeline will only leave room for alternatives that replace coal with hydrogen after 2040. In the manufacture of steel, the coal is not only the fuel, but also provides the chemical process for the manufacture of iron and later steel. That makes it complex.
In the coming years, Tata Steel will initially concentrate on the supposedly “largest CO2 separation system in the world”. The CO2 that Tata will capture must first be stored in empty gas fields under the North Sea.