Outokumpu invests in a pelletizing plant for biocoke in Tornio, Finland to accelerate the reduction of direct emissions

Outokumpu Oyj
Press release
December 18, 2023 at 9.15 am EET

Outokumpu invests in a pelletizing plant for biocoke in Tornio, Finland to accelerate the reduction of direct emissions

Outokumpu is the global leader in sustainable stainless steel and is continuously looking for ways to further lower its climate impact across the value chain. Replacing fossil coke with renewable raw materials from biomass is one of the key drivers to reduce our direct emissions in our operations. As part of Outokumpu’s strategy to strengthen its leadership in sustainability and secure access to high-quality raw materials, Outokumpu has decided to invest in a pelletizing plant to produce biocoke(1 at its site in Tornio, Finland. The investment is approximately EUR 30 million and the aim is to start production mid-2025.

“Our determined actions within sustainability such as ensuring high recycled content and low-carbon energy sources have already enabled us to offer stainless steel with the lowest carbon footprint in the industry. Work continues to meet our ambitious climate target to reduce emissions across our value chain by 42% by 2030 compared to the 2016 baseline. Fossil coke represents 50% of our direct emissions today. Therefore, a concrete step to significantly reduce these emissions is to replace fossil coke with biocoke which is produced using biomass from forest and wood industry residues”, says Timo Huhtala, General Manager for the biocoke project at Outokumpu.

The carbon footprint of Outokumpu ferrochrome is 67% smaller compared to the industry average and a further decrease is targeted with the transfer to using biocoke, which is a biomass-based alternative to fossil coke produced from forest and wood industry residues.

During the past year, Outokumpu has been studying the feasibility of establishing its own industrial-scale biocoke production facility and worked on a roadmap for building up the supply for biomass-based raw materials for the future. It consists of a mixture of own production, external sourcing, and partnerships.

The first step on this journey is to invest in a facility to pelletize externally sourced biocarbon(2 into biocoke at Outokumpu’s site in Tornio, Finland with an annual capacity of 25,000 tonnes. This helps to reduce CO2 emissions by 82,000 tonnes, which corresponds to the annual emissions of 8,000 Finnish citizens. Biocoke will be subsequently used in the ferrochrome operations as a reductant to replace fossil coke. Currently, biocoke represents the best-available-technology(3 to replace fossil coke in the ferrochrome production. The Tornio pilot plant enables Outokumpu to further develop the process and product so that a possible scale-up later could be possible.

“Use of biomass-based raw materials offers exciting new possibilities to cut direct emissions. We achieved great milestones earlier this year with successful production tests with biocoke, which has given us the confidence to take the next step of building our own pelletizing plant,” says Huhtala.

In parallel, Outokumpu also continues to plan for further investments to capacity for biocoke production in the future. As the second phase, we continue to develop the concept for a biocarbon production pilot plant including how to utilize process side stream gases in the most efficient way. Further investment decisions are planned to be made during 2024 provided that the financial feasibility is proven.

1) Biocoke is a renewable raw material produced using biomass from forest and wood industry side streams. In the first stage, the biomass is burnt in a pyrolysis process into biocarbon and in the second stage it can be processed/pelletized into biocoke (i.e., densified biocarbon). Biocarbon is used in stainless steel melting and biocoke in ferrochrome smelting to replace fossil coal and coke respectively.  

2) Outokumpu works to secure access to high quality biocarbon through direct purchases and by developing partnerships. In November 2023, Outokumpu announced an agreement to become a shareholder in Envigas AB, the first large-scale producer of biocarbon in the Nordics. The investment secures a right to 50% of Envigas’ current and future production.

3) Contrary to carbon steel manufacturing, hydrogen cannot be used as a reductant in ferrochrome smelting due to required high temperatures. On long-term, Outokumpu is investigating other potential technologies to replace fossil coke.

For more information:

Investors: Linda Häkkilä, Head of Investor Relation, tel. +358 40 071 9669 

Media: Päivi Allenius, VP – Communications and Brand, tel. +358 40 753 7374 or Outokumpu media phone +358 40 351 9840, e-mail media(at)outokumpu.com  

Outokumpu Oyj