Rio Tinto has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Germany-based steel production company Salzgitter to work together on carbon-free steelmaking.

Under the terms of the MoU, the two companies will study the optimisation of Rio Tinto’s high-quality iron ore products for use in Salzgitter’s SALCOS green steel project in Germany.

Rio Tinto produces iron ore pellets and concentrate at its Iron Ore Company of Canada and iron ore lump and fines in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The collaboration will explore ways to optimise iron ore pellets, lump and fines for use in hydrogen direct reduction steelmaking.

Also, the two companies have agreed to explore the potential for greenhouse gas emission certification across the steel value chain.

Rio Tinto chief commercial officer Alf Barrios said: “We welcome the chance to work with Salzgitter on ways to accelerate green steelmaking, in keeping with our commitment to reducing emissions across the steel value chain.

“Salzgitter has one of the world’s most advanced green steelmaking projects. Rio Tinto is excited at the opportunity of supplying our product and combining our technical expertise with that of Salzgitter to help advance the SALCOS project.”

The collaboration will focus on the potential use of iron ore products in the SALCOS – Salzgitter Low CO2 Steelmaking programme.

It virtually targets carbon-free steel production using step-by-step hydrogen direct reduction, starting from 2025.

Under the SALCOS programme, Salzgitter will gradually replace its carbon-based blast furnace route from the middle of this decade with direct reduction plants.

The furnaces will be initially operated by natural gas, followed by a steadily increasing proportion of hydrogen.

Salzgitter Flachstahl management board chairman Ulrich Grethe said: “With this alliance, we want to combine the knowledge of both companies to make further progress with low-carbon steel production.

“In this context, the Salzgitter Group is relying on strong partners, as set out in our ‘Salzgitter AG 2030’ Group strategy, in line with its motto of ‘Partnering for Circular Solutions’.”

Furthermore, Rio Tinto aims to reach its net-zero emissions goal by 2050, reduce a 15% in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 and increase it to 50% by 2030.

The company plans to engage with customers on climate change and work with them to develop decarbonisation technologies, to address the Scope 3 emissions.