Green steel

Plentiful renewable energy is opening up a new industrial frontier

Competitors are alarmed

NORRLAND IS THE largest of Sweden’s three historical “lands”. It spans the top half of the country and is sparsely populated, the more so the farther north you go. The few people who live there have long relied for work on mining, the army and forestry. Most of Sweden’s industry is far to the south. But Norrland abounds in hydropower. Power that is cheap and—crucially—green, along with bargain land and proximity to iron ore, is sparking an improbable industrial revolution, based on hydrogen, “green” steel and batteries.

SSAB, a steelmaker, is poised to deliver its first consignment of “eco-steel” from a hydrogen-fuelled pilot plant in Lulea, a northern city. Volvo, an industrial-vehicle firm these days, will use the steel to build lorries. Of the six or seven tonnes that its typical lorry weighs, around five consist of steel. And for each tonne of steel produced using fossil fuels, around two tonnes of planet-cooking carbon dioxide get belched into the atmosphere.

To make steel, iron ore must be melted at high temperatures and reduced from iron oxide to iron, a process that typically involves burning fossil fuels, releasing huge amounts of…