Revolutionizing the steel industry

How digitalization will enable completely different ways of working in steelmaking

Almost three years later, the conversation with Maria Persson Gulda at H2 Green Steel about digitalization in steelmaking remains relevant.

Despite its ubiquity in society and other industries, digital technologies have only begun to penetrate the steel industry. Steel workers have traditionally relied on their gut instinct, or intuition, to make important decisions, based on years of experience with information handed down from one generation to the next.

“The steel workforce is coming of age, and we are not adding enough apprentices or trainees to preserve knowledge legacies” says Maria Persson Gulda.


Maria Persson Gulda, Chief Project Officer and Chief Technology Officer at H2 Green Steel.

“An operator who has been in the industry for 40 years has a unique ability to sense when parameters are off – and when they are perfectly aligned”


Today, technology, automation and digital record-keeping and tracking allows us to make reliable data-driven decisions – without having to gut-check them, she says.

“The gut feeling is so difficult to concretely explain from an operational point of view because the parameters in steel production are too complex for the human brain to interpret. Machine learning and artificial intelligence enables us to create tools that can process large amounts of data and connect the dots.”

Her colleague Olof Hernell, Chief Digital Officer at H2 Green Steel, agrees. He highlights that it’s their cross functional teams – where experiences from material science and data science are combined – that will create the greatest value, with the common goal of revolutionizing the steel industry.


Olof Hernell, Chief Digital Officer at H2 Green Steel

“At H2 Green Steel, we do not draw a line between the physical and the digital world. Fully integrated teams – that’s our secret sauce”


Maria and Olof shared how digitalization will improve quality assurance in steel production, and its future potential impact on everything from operations and the role of steel engineers to mechanical property and safety.



The metal industry lags behind other industries on digital maturity – why is that?

Maria: “There are several reasons. Many steel companies have not had the financial means to tackle digital transformation, as they have been forced to focus on the mere survival of the business. Another hurdle is the “gut feeling” being so highly valued – some simply do not believe that there are other ways to produce high-quality steel. A third is that companies generally underestimate the importance of domain knowledge when creating an AI model – having the world’s best data scientist working separately, away from operations, isn’t enough. First when a process engineer with deep steel knowledge understands the mechanics and opportunities with data science, and works together with a data scientist with good knowledge of steelmaking, is when we will get the breakthrough innovations. To truly transform steel processes, everyone on the production floor needs to become digitally literate.”

H2 Green Steel is embarking on new ground, but are there predecessors or others who have inspired your digital best practices?

Olof: “We are going to take a lot of inspiration from companies like Google, Spotify and other tech giants that some of us have past experiences in – but we will learn just as much from what did not work there. The point is to combine the best of big tech and transformative tech companies with the best of the steel industry and academia, to build something new. It’s really the mix of the two that will be key to our success. H2 Green Steel as a digital native industry company, building a new kind of company culture and new workflows that I hope will inspire others in the industrial transition.”

What value does digitalization add to steel production?

Maria: “Digitalizing hydrogen and steel production is about optimizing every single resource used in production. Increasing efficiency in electricity usage for hydrogen or optimizing slag generation will bring enormous value in terms of cutting costs. In addition, we will produce the steel qualities of today – as well as tomorrow – with new types of material. We will use sponge iron reduced with 100 percent hydrogen instead of pig iron, and with our circular ambitions, we will use more scrap. Optimizing the recipe in combination with adjusting our production parameters, including heat treatment, enables us to produce the highest quality at the lowest cost.”

Olof: “In our simulations we are already seeing huge benefits by operating the hydrogen plant based on algorithms. Analytics and machine learning can, for example, predict weather, energy prices, and other external factors, allowing us to produce green hydrogen at a significantly lower price per ton. We’re talking about a 20 to 25 percent improvement, enabling us to take a giant generational leap. However, it’s important to note that the main breakthroughs are not just about leapfrogging – making many small, continuous changes and tweaks is actually what will have the really big long-term impact.”

Finally, what is the impact on safety?

Maria: “Automation will be key to help improve safety and mitigate risk at steel production sites. For example, our hydrogen production and storage is planned to be fully digitalized and automated, which means minimal human assistance. Therefore, we are removing many of the traditional safety hazards already at design. Digital tools will also allow us to predict, respond to, and resolve problems before they occur. Our goal is to create the next generation steel plant where no one should be worried about returning home safely after a day or a night shift.”


This is an article by H2 Green Steel.

Published: Apr 09 2024

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