For immediate release

March 24, 2024

DOE Announces 1st Green Steel Plant, Replacement for Coal-Based Steel Furnace

$1B in federal investments for cleaner steel in Perry County, Mississippi and Middletown, Ohio

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Climate advocates and community members hailed today’s announcements from the Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations unveiling initial award negotiations for the first hydrogen-ready iron-making facilities in the U.S. Green hydrogen made from new, renewable energy resources can be used to make fossil-free iron in modern direct-reduced iron (DRI) furnaces. Advocates previously called for new and upgraded iron and steelmaking investments to protect community health and the climate.

“The first proposed green steel plant in the United States, supported by the Department of Energy, is a crucial step toward revitalizing American manufacturing, fostering healthier communities and creating future-proof jobs,” said Hilary Lewis, Steel Director, Industrious Labs. “With this investment, the Biden administration has notched its first win in the global transition to green steel.”

The Department of Energy announced a green hydrogen direct reduced iron plant in Perry County, Mississippi. This plant is being developed by a Swedish green steel leader, SSAB. This will be the first commercial-scale facility using HYBRIT technology, with green hydrogen from Hy Stor Energy. The DRI will send its green iron to SSAB’s existing electric arc furnace in Iowa to make green steel.

Another hydrogen DRI project announced today will replace the coal-based blast furnace at Cleveland-Cliffs Middletown Works in Middletown, Ohio, north of Cincinnati. That facility was previously scheduled to receive a significant maintenance investment - approximately $300 million - that would have extended the plant's reliance on coal. However, local and national advocates called on Cleveland-Cliffs to instead invest in fossil-free steelmaking. Cleveland-Cliffs is on that path if they procure green hydrogen produced from new, renewable energy resources.

"For too long, Black people, people of color and low-income communities that live near coal-based steel mills like Middletown Works have borne the brunt of industrial pollution and its health consequences,” said Ohio resident Bishop Marcia Dinkins, Executive Director, Black Appalachian Coalition. “A fossil-free steel plant would help correct long-standing injustices, paving the way for a healthier, more equitable future."

The move to convert Middletown Works, the highest emitter of particulate matter of 213 Ohio industrial facilities excluding power plants, will bring air pollution relief to nearby communities. The coal-based facility releases 1,872 tons of NOx, 2,245 tons of SO2, and 451 tons of particulate matter annually, causing adverse health impacts and even mortalities.

"I live less than 1,000 feet from the coal-based Middletown Works steelmaking facility, and every day, I breathe in its toxic soup of pollution. We need better solutions to protect our health,” said Donna Ballinger, a resident of Middletown, Ohio. “By replacing the blast furnace with direct reduced iron technology powered by hydrogen produced with renewable energy, we can bring cleaner air to my family and community, while safeguarding local jobs."

These new hydrogen direct reduced iron plants will retain workers and even grow the union workforce. Research from the local non-profit the Ohio River Valley Institute shows that green hydrogen DRI iron making will create more jobs than fossil fuel technology. Projects announced today projected retaining 2,500 existing union jobs, while creating an additional 7,200 construction jobs and 710 permanent jobs in Ohio and Mississippi, many of which will be union-represented.

"As our recent report shows, investing in fossil-free steelmaking is a boon for job creation and retention, enhancing community health and improving quality of life,” said Joanne Kilgour, Executive Director, Ohio River Valley Institute. “But we’ll only realize the full benefits if these facilities are powered by 100% green hydrogen made with new renewable energy resources."

The global steel industry is responsible for 11 percent of global climate pollution due to its reliance on coal. Today, 70 percent of the steel produced worldwide is made with iron ore in coal-burning blast furnaces. Blast furnaces transform iron ore into iron, the foundational element for steelmaking, through a high-temperature process fueled by coke, a purified form of coal.

These projects are an important step toward meeting the growing demand for low-emissions steel, with an anticipated 6.7 million tons of demand by 2030 in the U.S. alone. Industry leaders like Ford and GM that have committed to the First Movers Coalition to purchase near-zero emission steel can help ensure the success of these planned investments by signing advanced purchase commitments.

“In the chicken-and-egg game of supply and demand for sustainable materials, today’s announcements clarified that clean steel is coming,” said Maricela Gutierrez, Senior Campaign Strategist at Industrious Labs. “Now, we need key steel buyers like automakers to help secure these investments by signing advanced purchase agreements.”

There are just 10 other announced green steel plants globally, all in Europe. A recent white paper from Industrious Labs and Public Citizen found that six of those facilities expect to benefit from government grants totaling $5.5 billion. Today’s announcements put the U.S. on the green steel map.


About Industrious Labs:

Industrious Labs is focused on scaling campaigns and building a movement to clean up heavy industry through network and capacity building, research and analysis, data-driven campaigns and sharp communications.