Steel sludge could be tapped for low carbon hydrogen

Imperial spinout Nanomox is teaming up with the Materials Processing Institute (MPI) to harvest low carbon hydrogen from steelmaking sludge.

The pre-heat ladle at the MPI's Normanton Plant
The pre-heat ladle at the MPI's Normanton Plant - MPI

The UK has around 6.7 million tonnes of steelmaking sludge stockpiled, with 90,000 tonnes added annually to the total. Backed by £173,000 of funding from the BEIS Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator Programme, a new feasibility study will explore how this waste resource can be tapped into, separating out metals such as zinc and producing hydrogen that can be fed back into the steelmaking process.

Underpinning the concept is a patent-pending process developed by Nanomox whereby green catalytic solvents achieve direct oxidation of metals at low temperatures. As well as offering energy efficiency gains over existing technologies, the process also produces ‘significant volumes’ of hydrogen, seen by the steel industry as a key pathway to decarbonisation.

“The Institute is excited to be working with Nanomox to develop and perfect a process that has the potential to bring huge environmental and commercial benefits to the steel sector,” said Chris McDonald, chief executive of the Materials Processing Institute.

 “A successful outcome would reduce CO2 emissions whilst improving profitability through significant cost and energy efficiencies together with the ability to recover and recycle valuable materials.”

Research will take place at both Imperial College, London, and the Materials Processing Institute’s Teesside campus. The two-year demonstration project will initially involving the MPI’s hi-tech Normanton steel plant before transferring to a commercial steelworks. 

“We are thrilled to work with the Materials Processing Institute to unlock the full potential of our oxidative ionothermal process and make steel manufacturing more sustainable,” said Francisco Malaret, Nanomox CEO.