Producing steel more efficiently, at a lower cost, and with zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Steel is a ubiquitous backbone of modern civilization. But such ubiquity comes at a cost. Steel production accounts for a staggering 7% (two billion tons) of global CO2 emissions each year, as well as significant amounts of contaminated wastewater and other hazardous solid wastes. It is a dirty coal-dependent process that has changed little over the centuries.
Boston Metal has invented a coal-free, emissions free, modular method of industrial steel production using electricity. It’s called molten oxide electrolysis (MOE) and combines transformative materials engineering and novel systems engineering with elements from industrial aluminum production, traditional blast furnaces, and arc furnaces to produce steel more efficiently, at lower costs than traditional methods, and with zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The startup’s core technology was invented at MIT in Donald Sadoway’s lab with support from NASA and the American Iron and Steel Institute. Sadoway and his students proved that MOE could produce a multitude of metals, including steel, at the laboratory scale. Encouraged by this success, Sadoway, Professor Antoine Allanore, and Dr. Jim Yurko founded Boston Metal in 2012. The company commissioned its first semi-industrial MOE cell in 2014.
Currently helmed by industry veteran Tadeu Carneiro, the former CEO of CBMM (world’s largest producer of niobium), Boston Metal is working to expand the capabilities of its MOE technology. Whether it is the production of reactive metals like titanium and beryllium, to ferroalloys like ferrochromium and ferromanganese, or rare earth metals, the startup’s platform can deliver the same clean and efficient results.
But clean metal production alone is not enough to upend established global industry paradigms. Wholesale change must also be incentivized by a very different type of green.
Boston Metal’s technology requires significantly less capital expenditure up front. Instead of the typical five billion dollar investment needed for a new industrial blast furnace, the startup’s modular and scalable approach, inspired by aluminum manufacturing, gives steel manufacturers the ability to add production capacity when appropriate. Electricity, the heart of the MOE process, is also less expensive than the relative amount of coke used in traditional blast furnaces.
The economic model proposed by Boston Metal aligns with the industry’s worldwide development strategies. Humanity’s appetite for steel is only increasing—and having the ability to build reliable, affordable, and clean plants close to city centers allows the industry to satisfy demand without the massive initial investment and significant ancillary costs like transportation and remediation.
Rarely is a centuries-old industrial process turned on its head. What Boston Metal has developed is a greater leap in steelmaking and metals production than the Bessemer process or the advent of basic oxygen steelmaking. It reimagines the status-quo as something that can help humanity, quite literally, reach new heights, without worrying about the air up there when it does.