ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE

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Climate change is the biggest issue for the steel industry in the 21st century. Reducing CO2 emissions in steelmaking must be tackled on a global level. Making the substantial CO2 reductions required will need technology transfer, collaboration and breakthrough technologies.

The reduction of CO2 from steel production is an established priority, as is the reduction of GHG emissions during the life cycle of products that use steel. Our member companies incorporate strategies into their businesses to improve processes and drive product innovation in this direction.

In order to drastically reduce the overall CO2 emissions from the production of steel, the development of breakthrough technologies is crucial. Today, a large number of promising projects are ongoing in different parts of the world. Some projects are in the early research stage while others are in pilot or demonstration phase. Although their goals are similar, approaches differ and can be categorised as follows:
 

  • Hydrogen as a reducing agent - Avoids carbon and uses hydrogen to reduce iron ore thereby averting the creation of CO2, and producing H2O (water) instead.
     
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) - Generates a clean and concentrated CO2 stream that can be captured and stored. The process involves retrofitting steel plants with capture technology and requires the development of transportation networks and access to storage sites.
     
  • Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) - Uses the components of the co-product gases from existing processes to produce fuels or input material for the chemical industry.
     
  • Biomass as a reducing agent - Can partially substitute coal for biomass such as charcoal.
     
  •  Electrolysis – Reduces iron ore using electricity.

Every one of these technologies will have a role to play in cutting CO2 emissions. Their implementation at a larger scale, however, will require large quantities of carbon-free hydrogen, biomass and electricity to be readily available, which implies a fundamental transformation of the global energy system.

Efficient use of resources, re-use and recycling, are also imperatives for sustainable development. Material efficiency is an integral part of the modern steelmaking process. Our goal is to use all raw materials to their full capacity, ensuring zero waste from steelmaking. This ambition guarantees that almost every by-product formed during steelmaking is used in new products. This approach minimises the amount of waste sent to landfill, reduces emissions, and preserves raw materials.

Environmental sustainability is also related to the development of new and stronger products, which in the long-term will provide clear and lasting positive benefits for the environment. 

For the steel industry, the impact of steel during the entire life cycle of products, the use of by-products, recycling, energy and water management are important focus areas.

Another approach to reducing CO2 is the efficient use of energy. This has always been one of the steel industry’s key priorities. Cost is a key incentive for this, considering that energy purchases account for 20-40% in basic steel production. worldsteel estimates that steel companies have cut their energy consumption per tonne of steel produced by 61% since 1960. While existing production technologies are already very efficient, every steel company is at a different point of maturity and development.

In 2008, Climate Action was launched, under which companies report data on- site - or company-level CO2 emissions. A participating company or site receives a report showing the process route average emission data and range to which it can compare itself. Read more in the Climate Action Programme section (via the link on the right).

worldsteel acts as a focal point both for steel industry knowledge exchange and a shared global approach. It also works with the International Energy Agency, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and, through its members, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.