Green steel in a clean environment

Tata Steel Nederland is in the midst of a major transformation. The Netherlands’ largest and most important steel producer wants to produce green steel based on hydrogen in a clean environment by 2045. The plans are extensive and ambitious but necessary. As the IJmuiden-based company says: ‘We have to act now because the world cannot wait.’


To achieve the 2045 goals, a path to clean, green and circular steel is essential. Such is Project HeraCless (hydrogen era, carbonless). In addition, Tata Steel aims to drastically reduce the environmental impact of substances, odours, noise and PAHs (substances caused by incomplete combustion) through the Roadmap Plus programme.

Iv has been active at Tata Steel, formerly Koninklijke Hoogovens, since its foundation in 1949. Three-quarters of a century later, Tata Steel Nederland is facing the biggest challenge in its history. Iv is there now, too, as part of both Roadmap Plus and Project HeraCless.

Decrease in emissions

It is no secret that the steel company, part of the global Tata Steel group, is under intense public pressure to become more sustainable and reduce its CO2 emissions and other harmful pollutants as quickly as possible. The process is already underway. Its emissions are already falling steadily due to all manner of measures, large and small. It is estimated that PAH emissions have fallen by 50 percent since 2019. In 2010, the steel company emitted almost 30,000 kilograms of lead. In 2019, 1,300 kilograms were emitted.


These are significant reductions, but more is needed to take the final and biggest steps. Tata Steel’s terrain will change in appearance in the coming years. The two existing blast furnaces, Blast Furnace 6 and Blast Furnace 7 are still in operation, but not indefinitely. Iv is helping Tata Steel achieve its goal of producing green steel in a clean environment. It will work both ways: both the steel-making process and its impact on the environment will change for the better.

Two improvement programmes

Project HeraCless focuses on the production of clean, green and circular steel – the new Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) plant will be a key part of this. The environmental installation at the pellet factory (PEFA) is one of the biggest steps in the other programme, Roadmap Plus, which aims to reduce emissions of particulate matter, lead and heavy metals, and thus realise a positive effect on the immediate environment. The sheer size of the environmental installation (approximately 170 metres long, 45 metres wide and 110 metres high at its highest point) makes it a literal main feature. The dedusting installation, part of the new environmental installation, arrived in sections at the Tata Steel site in mid-2023 and is expected to be operational in the same year. The environmental installation should reduce emissions of heavy metals, lead and dust from the pellet plant by approximately 80 percent.


Iv is playing a major role in these two improvement programmes and together with Tata Steel, has developed and finalised the designs for the environmental installation. From 2025, the dedusting installation will work in conjunction with the DeNOx installation. The deduster consists of no less than 6,000 10-metre bag filters, equivalent to 60 kilometres of filter cloth.


The PEFA (Pellet Factory) produces round balls (pellets) from iron ore. These pellets are a critical raw material for the production of pig iron. In addition to carbon dioxide (CO₂), significant amounts of nitrogen (N2) are released during the entire production process.


Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions must also be significantly reduced. The dedusting installation will be directly connected to the PEFA and will capture a large part of the heavy metals, flue gases and dust through ‘filtering’. The DeNOx installation will primarily reduce nitrogen emissions through ‘washing’ and ‘scrubbing’. The water from the dedusting installation will then be transported to a new (to be built) water treatment plant.


Green steel

Then the road to ‘green steel’. What exactly does this involve? The biggest gains can be made mainly on the process side of pig iron. Producing steel in a cleaner way without emissions. Steel that leaves the Tata Steel site in large coils and is used, for example, in the production of cars (automotive industry), batteries (packaging industry) and buildings (construction industry). Steel is everywhere. Chairman Hans van den Berg, CEO of Tata Steel Nederland, pointed out earlier this year that every Dutch citizen uses an average of about 1 kilo of steel per day. The annual steel production in IJmuiden is roughly equivalent to this demand: 7 million tonnes of high-quality steel leaves the site as large coils.


The dot on the horizon is steel production using hydrogen. The emergence and development of hydrogen is ongoing, but not yet to the point where a major steel producer such as Tata Steel can switch entirely to using hydrogen. That will take years. But until then, Tata Steel aims to use mainly natural gas (LNG) and reduce its dependency on coal, the largest contributor to the emissions. Ore (sinter and pellets) and coal (later natural gas and hydrogen) are needed to produce liquid pig iron from which steel is made.


Like Tata Steel, Iv is proud of this major development at the Netherlands’ most important steel producer. Rick de Jong, Programme Director at Iv: “Iv also wants to play a major role in Tata Steel’s huge sustainability task in the coming years. Both in terms of feasibility studies and detailed engineering. Whether it concerns large, complex engineering projects or solving smaller issues, both are often equally as important in the overall chain. Tata Steel wants and needs to become more sustainable, and we are happy to help. How fantastic is it to actually contribute to making the steel industry in IJmuiden more sustainable? If we can make it work here, we will really be making progress. Relocation or closure is always a less favourable option.”


At the moment, this task is not only huge but also highly complex and challenging. Rick: “I’m not someone who quickly views something as a problem; I prefer to tackle it as a challenge. We see it as an opportunity to make a difference in our world. Both now and in the future. The most important thing for us is staying sharp and making choices that enable others to continue. We must be critical and devise solutions that really make an impact.”


An impression of our activities

In addition to the arrival of the PEFA dedusting installation, the DeNOx installation, and the Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) plant in 2030, much more is happening on the Tata Steel site. Many of the 200-plus sub-projects that Iv is undertaking in IJmuiden are linked to the Roadmap Plus programme (a clean environment) and Project HeraCless (producing green steel).

Preparing the site for construction

Still this year, Tata Steel plans to start the installation of a gigantic windbreak on the south side of the site. Its dimensions are impressive: 18 metres high and about a kilometre long. “The windbreak will reduce the wind speed, which will prevent the materials from being blown onto the beach”, explains Joeri Polderman, Project Leader for Civil Engineering at Iv.


A number of site adaptations are required to install this huge windbreak. Iv has prepared the site by making it ready for construction. Making space for an object of this size goes far beyond digging a few holes to secure the windbreak. “This installation involves moving sections of road, on which we carried out immediate maintenance, moving drainage gutters and adjusting and rerouting the sprinkler system”, says Joeri. Data cables and pipes were also relocated, and streetlights were moved. The windbreak is part of the Roadmap Plus programme.


The trick is to ‘free up’ the area for the screen as optimally as possible. Iv’s experience in civil infrastructure was utilised to handle this as efficiently and methodically as possible. Joeri: “It’s a beautiful project in a unique environment. You have to bear in mind that what we do can affect the entire logistics of the raw materials on site.”

The railway: Tata Steel’s common thread 

On the subject of logistics, Tata Steel has around 130 kilometres of railway under its own management. Although the site is large (roughly 750 hectares, the size of the town of Bussum), this is an enormous amount. Tata Steel’s rail network is entirely focused on the logistics business process. This business process is, therefore, dependent on the railway. The arrival of the dedusting installation and the new factory (the Direct Reduced Iron plant), among others, means that the rails have to be adapted. The supply of materials from outside the site by rail must also be taken into account.


“Besides ProRail, Tata Steel is one of the largest rail operators in the Netherlands”, says Joey Kortlever, Sector Head of the Rail Department at Iv. This immediately highlights how vital the rail network is for the steel company.


Iv has been asked to partially redesign the railway network – a huge puzzle in an environment that cannot be compared to other railways in the Netherlands. “For an engineer, this is a very interesting environment”, Joey continues. “It really is like designing on a postage stamp. The lines of sight for the train driver have to be sufficient, which is no easy task with all the installations and factories on site. Also, almost all the facilities have to be accessible by rail. Avoiding all sorts of tight bends and switches is preferable; it has to be as robust as possible.” 


What makes it even more interesting is that it not only concerns the rail network. Joey: “There are also roads, culverts and other infrastructure present that we all have to take into account. Taking care of that infrastructure as part of the whole makes the work fun and specific.” 

Water treatment upgrade

With all the (sustainability) adjustments on the Tata Steel site, not only will the infrastructure have to be adapted, but the water treatment plant will also need to be changed. Due to more substances such as metals, emissions, and gases soon being treated in the dedusting installation, the water treatment system will also need to be upgraded.


Iv is responsible for re-evaluating the basic and detailed engineering of the activities at the water treatment plant. The new components are a PEFA buffer (which processes substances from the pellet and coke plant), a BNR (Biological Nitrogen Removal) reactor, two clarifiers and an odour treatment system. The existing treatment plant will be adapted and improved, including an expansion of the sand filters.


In the BNR reactor, denitrification converts nitrate into nitrogen gas, the sole component of nitrogen. Nitrogen gas is not harmful and is exhaled by humans. About 80 percent of the air contains nitrogen gas (N2), not to be confused with nitrogen dioxide. (NO2).


Ronald Schuilenburg is the Project Manager for this intensive and unique project. “As is often the case with this type of project, the changeover of the water treatment plant needs to be carried out in stages without the plant being out of operation for a single minute. This must be taken into account in the design to ensure that this is possible.”


As with many other activities on the Tata Steel site, Ronald designs down to the square centimetre. “If you were to ask me whether I would rather have a vast, empty field to design on or this, I would choose the latter: it is very challenging to do. Especially because of the many Iv disciplines involved, such as colleagues with knowledge of industrial (waste) water, process engineering, media (piping & equipment engineering), mechanical, civil (concrete and steel) and E&I engineers. The diversity is very nice.”


The engineering for the upgraded water treatment plant is expected to be completed early next year, followed by the installation at the end of 2024, which will be operational in 2025.

Iv’s history dates back to 1949, when Henk Veth founded the Engineering and Architectural Firm H. Veth in his attic in Rotterdam. The company’s first client was the steel construction company Van der Cammen, a major supplier for Koninklijke Hoogovens. Koninklijke Nederlandse Hoogovens en Staalfabrieken NV was established in 1918. In 1999, it merged with British Steel and continued under the name Corus, which became part of Tata Steel in 2007. In Iv’s early years, the IJmuiden steel producer was by far its most important client. At that time, Iv mainly produced working drawings for the company.


The collaboration continued following the acquisition in 2007. A separate branch was set up by Iv to serve the entire portfolio, from raw material intake to product distribution. In recent years, the collaboration has intensified due to major sustainability programmes such as Roadmap Plus and Project HeraCless. Thanks to this long-standing cooperation, Iv will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2024; we have a unique knowledge of Tata Steel and vice versa. We, therefore, have extensive knowledge of the site, including the 13 factories and surrounding areas. We understand how complex and challenging the site is, which processes take place where, and how everything is connected.

Iv and Tata Steel: the history

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Rick de Jong