Nucor Corp. made an equity investment in Electra, a Colorado-based start-up developing a process to produce carbon-free iron that can be used to make steel. The company uses renewable energy to refine low-grade iron ores into high-purity iron through electrochemical and hydrometallurgical processes. This material will be used in the steelmaking process to offset other high-quality metallics that come with higher greenhouse gas emissions.
The process developed by Electra produces low-temperature iron (LTI) from commercial and low-grade ores using zero-carbon intermittent electricity. The company electrochemically refines iron ore into pure iron at 140°F (60°C) using renewable electricity. That iron can be turned into steel using existing electric-arc furnaces, which account for 70% of steel production in the United States. Electra's process results in zero carbon dioxide emissions. By comparison, approximately 70% of the steel produced globally is made with blast-furnace technology, which emits about 2 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of steel produced.