Blog:Potential game changers for the future of steelmaking

Dr Baris Çiftçi

Head, Raw Materials

Potential game changers for the future of steelmaking | 3 May 2017

I recently gave a speech at the 5th International Steel Industry & Sector Relations Conference in Istanbul, Turkey where I provided an outlook on the global steel industry. Part of my speech focused on the growing global ferrous scrap availability and the innovative steelmaking technologies which are potential game changers for the future of steelmaking.

In 2016 the steel industry used about 1.2 billion tonnes of blast furnace iron (hot metal), 520 million tonnes (Mt) of ferrous scrap and 75 Mt of direct reduced iron - to produce about 1.6 billion tonnes of crude steel globally.

Global ferrous scrap demand has stagnated in the last couple of years, and the share of ferrous scrap in the total metallics demand for steelmaking has declined. This is reflected in a reduced share of electric arc furnaces in the total global crude steel production, which today stands at around 25%. Electric arc furnaces use mainly ferrous scrap to produce steel.

Our estimates suggest that global scrap availability - the amount of ferrous scrap that can be collected and melted - stood at about 700 Mt in 2016. Global scrap availability is expected to reach about 1 billion tonnes by 2030, suggesting that the steel industry will be increasing its use of ferrous scrap considerably in the medium and long-term. The use of ferrous scrap in the steelmaking process is beneficial to the environment as it preserves the natural resources that would be used instead, reduces emissions and supports the circular economy.

The steel industry has already improved its environmental footprint considerably in the past 50 years. For example, worldsteel data show that from 1960 to 2015 global steel industry decreased its energy intensity, that is energy consumption per tonne of crude steel produced, by around 60%.

Nevertheless, as an energy intensive industry, which accounts for about 7.0% of total CO2 emissions globally, the steel industry is challenged to do more.

The industry is actively investing in innovative and breakthrough technologies that can have a dramatic impact on the steel industry’s environmental performance and its steelmaking materials demand. One potential breakthrough technology is the use of hydrogen to replace carbon in metallurgical processes, thereby directly avoiding CO2 emissions. This would have a substantial impact on the demand for metallurgical coal.

There are also initiatives that focus on process integration and thus eliminating some traditional parts of the steelmaking process, such as cokemaking and iron ore agglomeration. The use of such technologies at an industrial scale would also result in considerable savings both in energy and CO2 emissions, and would have a significant bearing on metallurgical coal and iron ore markets.      

I would be very interested to hear your view on the impact of growing scrap availability and the technological developments in the steelmaking industry in the future.

Add your comment here:

  • 1

    At what stage of production is hydrogen used "instead of carbon"?

    avatarserge VinogradMay 4, 2017 12:58:19 AMReply

  • 2

    As iron occurs only as iron oxides in the earth’s crust, the ores must be ‘reduced’ to iron. Coke reduces iron ore in blast furnaces to molten iron, called ‘hot metal’. The hot metal is then processed in basic oxygen furnaces to produce liquid steel. The idea behind hydrogen steelmaking is to partially replace carbon with hydrogen (produced from ‘clean‘ electricity ) for iron ore reduction, which would result in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions from ironmaking.

    avatarBARIS CIFTCIMay 4, 2017 9:43:25 AMReply

  • 3

    Blogs like this really important to demonstrate the potential of our industry. At the same time, let's not mislead our customers or investors into thinking that if they ask us to increase the scrap content in our steel this will create a low carbon economy. We can only use what is available, and there is unlikely to be enough to really change the game for some time to come.

    avatarAnnie HeatonMay 17, 2017 6:45:44 PMReply

  • 4

    Hello Annie - Many thanks for your comment. As you rightly pointed out, our aim is to assess, demonstrate and discuss the potential of our industry. We have developed a scrap availability estimation model in order to have a clearer understanding of the global steel industry's recycling potential. Estimation of scrap availability is a complex task, which is very data and assumption intensive. We are currently supporting many academic studies in the area of recycling and life cycle assessment. We are sharing our data, knowledge and assessments openly so that we can have a structured, informed and fruitful discussion within the industry as well as with all of our stakeholders. It is widely known that steel is the material that is recycled the most. And our estimates show that more than 80% of economically recoverable and recyclable, and sufficient quality scrap is being recycled every year. This is a ratio that is probably higher than those for most other materials and hence a ratio that we should all be proud of. I agree with you and do not expect to see significant changes in scrap use soon as the increase in scrap availability will be very gradual, and mainly come from the developing countries. Nevertheless in the long-term, we might expect to see the scrap consumption to grow considerably, particularly in the developing countries, in line with the increase in availability.

    avatarBARIS CIFTCIMay 29, 2017 4:53:51 PMReply

  • 5

    You mention hydrogen use for iron ore reduction and refer to the voestalpine project. Is this a one-timer or are you aware of other businesses looking into that possibility?

    avatarValentin VoglJun 16, 2017 9:54:24 AMReply

  • 6

    Hello Valentin - Thank you for your question and interest. SSAB’s HYBRIT project and Salzgitter’s SALCOS project are other examples of initiatives focusing on the use of hydrogen to partially replace carbon in metallurgical processes.

    avatarBARIS CIFTCIJun 16, 2017 10:33:08 AMReply

  • 7

    Which role do you think ULCOS had in this? Hydrogen was not part of any of the proposed breakthrough technologies, but now it seems to have gained traction. Has ULCOS failed?

    avatarValentin VoglJun 20, 2017 9:51:51 AMReply

  • 8

    Hello Valentin - Thank you for your comment. The ULCOS programme consists of several projects, which have reached different stages of development. The HIsarna project, for example, is an ULCOS initiative focusing on process integration, and has reached the planning stage for the construction of a demonstration plant. In my blog article, I have mentioned the initiatives focusing on the use of hydrogen to replace carbon and the initiatives focusing on the process integration. There are other initiatives focusing on carbon capture and usage, such as ArcelorMittal's Steelanol project.

    avatarBARIS CIFTCIJun 22, 2017 11:24:47 AMReply

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