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Release 21.12.2021

Accelerating the green transition – Research is fostering the sustainable reform of the metal and steel industry

SSAB Raahe Steelworks (Photo: SSAB)

The metal and steel industry will play a key role in Finland’s pursuit of carbon neutrality by 2035. The transition to a low-carbon society offers Finland significant business potential but requires investments in research. Business Finland funds three major research projects – FSS, FOSSA and TOCANEM – which develop metal production technologies. Their main objective is to reduce CO2 emissions in metal production, and some of the projects aim at completely fossil-free manufacturing technologies and/or processes.

“The three research projects will create a Finnish ecosystem to help build a knowledge base for the long-term competitiveness of the Finnish steel and metal industry. The transition to fossil-free steel is a revolutionary technological shift, a real green shift. This requires major changes and cooperation in energy production, metals refining and material flows. On the other hand, steel and engineering companies can improve their global leadership with new materials and operating models and by reducing emissions. The projects launched are at the core of sustainable development, which Business Finland has adopted as its strategic priority,” says Senior Director Jarmo Heinonen.

New materials and operating models and the reduction of emissions will improve the international competitiveness of the Finnish steel and engineering industry. The metal industry is the largest industry in Finland. It accounts for 12% of Finland’s exports and around 3% of its GDP.

Metal refiners have a long tradition in collaborative research

Kimmo Järvinen, managing director of the Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers, says that companies and research organizations have collaborated on a systematic and long-term basis in metal refining for more than 40 years. Järvinen estimates that the support and funding from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland and Business Finland have played a crucial role in this. The cooperation is promoted by the fact that the member companies of the Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers do not compete directly against each other: the products are different, the raw material base is different and the companies specialize in certain segments.

The sustainability-oriented research of these three projects continues the metal industry’s research strategy.

“The role of this joint research is to lay the foundations and knowledge basis for developing the metal industry. The projects examine the use of hydrogen in the reduction of metals and potentially also the use of biomaterials in metal production. Companies then refine this basic research knowledge into low-carbon products”, Järvinen explains.

Sustainable production processes and a fossil-free chain from steel production to the final customer

The FFS (Towards Fossil-Free Steel) research project, which was launched in the summer of 2021, is related to reducing CO2 emissions in production processes. It will be followed up at the beginning of next year by the FOSSA (Fossil Free Steel Applications) project, which focuses on fossil-free products. 

In the FFS project, industrial and research partners are studying different solutions and options for producing fossil-free steel. The project investigates productive solutions for using green energy, i.e., hydrogen, biochar and biogas, in the steel industry. In addition, the project studies the production of fossil-free lime and new solutions for utilizing the by-products of steelmaking processes.

“The project has supported our company’s strategic goal to move progressively towards fossil-free steel production. We have identified solutions and options for replacing fossil fuels in steel production with renewable energy. The first phase of Raahe plant conversion is expected to be completed in 2030”, says Jarmo Lilja, responsible director for the research projects on the business side and process development manager at SSAB’s Raahe Steelworks.

The objective of the FOSSA joint venture is to create a fossil-free value chain from steel production to the end customer in the steel and engineering industries. The FOSSA project has three main themes: the value chain of fossil-free steel, advanced steels and applications, and the virtual manufacturing of steel products.

“The FOSSA project develops not only fossil-free steel products but also the entire value chain for cargo handling and the transport industry, for example. Some pilot deliveries have already been made, and commercial deliveries are projected to begin in 2026,” says Pasi Suikkanen, product development manager at SSAB.

“Both the FSS and the FOSSA project focus on manufacturing products from new fossil-free raw materials using a new zero-emission process. Another major task is the production of energy in a sustainable manner. These projects intend to replace coal with electricity and renewable energy. FSS and FOSSA are the first multidisciplinary research projects in metals refining, as they also involve companies from the energy sector,” Lilja says.

Carbon-neutral metal production is progressing in Finland

The TOCANEM (Towards Carbon Neutral Metals)project was launched in early 2021. Its aim is to develop technologies that reduce CO2 emissions in the production of metals. It also aims to consolidate Finland’s position as a pioneer in developing and commercializing process innovations and production technologies. The primary means of achieving this are the use of fossil-free electricity and hydrogen in metal production. Recycling also plays an important role.

The TOCANEM project involves a large number of companies and research organizations. Timo Fabritius, professor of process metallurgy at the University of Oulu, is the leader of the public research project.

“The project has enormous potential from the point of view of the research organization. The main focus is on the metal refining industry, but the energy, wood and paper industries are also involved.  Cooperation between the three industries will produce the tools required for reducing emissions: replacing carbon with hydrogen, electrifying processes and utilizing biochar manufactured from the forest industry's side streams”, Fabritius says.

Further information

Jarmo Heinonen, Business Finland
jarmo.heininen (at)
Tel. +358 50 5577 790

Kimmo Järvinen, The Association of Finnish Steel and Metal Producers
kimmo.jarvinen (at)
Tel. +358 43 825 7642

Jarmo Lilja, SSAB
jarmo.lilja (at)
Tel. +358 40 557 8892

Timo Fabritius, University of Oulu
timo.fabritius (at)
Tel. +358 40 554 6683

Sanna Nuutila, communications manager, Business Finland
sanna.nuutila (at)
Tel. +358 50 5577 717

Business Finland’s Smart Energy Finland program

The FSS project consortium consists of seven companies (SSAB Europe Oy, Fortum Power and Heat Oy, Valmet Technologies Oy, Ovako Imatra Oy Ab, Nordkalk Oy Ab, Tapojärvi Oy and Luxmet Oy), three research institutes (University of Oulu, VTT and Åbo Akademi) and three follow-up & support partners. The total budget of the FFS project is EUR 10.7 million, and Business Finland is participating in the project with EUR 5.6 million. The two-year project started on 1 February 2021.

The FOSSA project consortium consists of four companies (SSAB Europe Oy, Cargotec Finland Oy, Fortaco Ostrobothnia Oy, Indalgo Oy), three research organizations (University of Oulu, Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology, The University of Tampere Foundation) and in kind companies. The total budget of the FOSSA project is approximately EUR 6 million, and Business Finland is participating in the project with EUR 3.26 million. The two-year project will begin on 1 January 2022.

The three-year TOCANEM project began on 1 September 2021. It has a total value of EUR 18 million, of which Business Finland’s share is EUR 9.8 million. The processes to be developed are piloted by Boliden Harjavalta Oy, Boliden Kokkola Oy, Jervois Finland Oy, Fortum Waste Solutions Oy, Metso Outotec Finland Oy and Outokumpu Stainless Oy. The project also involves Kivisampo Oy, Owatec Oy and Sapotech Oy. In addition, the project partners are Metsä Group Oy, Ovako Imatra Oy and SSAB Europe Oy. Research organizations belonging to the consortium are Aalto University, LUT University, University of Oulu, VTT and Åbo Akademi. The project is coordinated by the University of Oulu.