The story behind the world’s first consumer product using fossil-free steel
The steel industry is responsible for about 7% of global CO2 emissions — the Swedish players SSAB and TRIWA aim to show how to transform it.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
December 12, 2022
SSAB is a steel company with production facilities in Sweden, Finland, and the US. In 2016, it joined forces with Europe’s largest iron ore producer, LKAB, and energy company Vattenfall unveiling HYBRIT, an initiative producing steel using fossil-free hydrogen instead of coal. Last year, they managed to deliver the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron to the project’s first customer, Volvo. The breakthrough was highlighted by Swedish designer Lena Bergström who designed the candleholder A piece of the future.
SSAB is now teaming up with TRIWA for the launch of the Time for Decarbonization watch. In 2020, TRIWA made carbon footprint calculations on all its products and identified steel as the biggest polluter. In pursuit of solutions, the brand came across SSAB and the idea was born. The first drop has been limited to 20 watches, with the aim to scale up production next year. The watch case is made using fossil-free steel powder from SSAB and comes in two different versions, with either an automatic or quartz movement. The dial colour scheme and the oversized hour markers and hands have been inspired by SSAB’s steel production.
— With our industry’s tradition of working with steel, it feels extremely exciting to take part in this transformation of the steel industry. SSAB is at the forefront with the steel powder for the watch produced using HYBRIT technology and this is a symbol of change — a timepiece from Sweden with a solution for an industry in need of transformation, says Ludvig Scheja, co-founder and creative director at TRIWA.
Thomas Hörnfeldt, Vice President Sustainability & Public Affairs at SSAB, is also proud of the partnership.
— It’s a new process of making steel out of virgin materials, he says, avoiding the typical historical two tonnes of CO2 per ton of steel that you make, and we are in the process of commercializing fossil-free steel production. Together with TRIWA, we have turned our fossil-free steel into a very fine powder that they then have used to make the housing of the world’s first fossil-free consumer product. For us, making fossil-free steel has been all about industrialization. This is a way of making steel that has been known in the past but has only been done on a laboratory scale. But since 2020, we have had a pilot plant outside our facilities in Luleå in northern Sweden. It’s a research facility that we use in preparation for the commercial launch of fossil-free steel, which we plan to do in 2026 when we’ll have a full-scale industrial plant up and running. The challenge for us going forward is not the technology — we know that it’s working right now — but about building a steel plant as fast as possible. Building big stuff from scratch takes time.
What have you learned when creating a consumer product that you can benefit from going forward?
— I think it’s an attention-getter, a statement, and it kind of symbolises the interest that we see. We have also seen that consumers today are aware of these types of issues and are looking for products with a lower carbon footprint. That is something that we can see from our partners in the automotive industry as well, but, obviously, a watch is something that, by definition, is even closer to your person.
What’s next in the HYBRIT project?
— That plant I mentioned is the next step and then we plan to a little more than double the capacity up to 2030.
Sign up for our newsletter here, to get more stories like this