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 breakthrough technology 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.

 

On the road to the arrival of breakthrough technology short and medium-term process efficiency gains will provide important climate change benefits.

In 2019 the worldsteel Board of Directors has agreed to a new industry wide drive named step up.

This multistep process covering raw materials, energy input, yield and maintenance can be used to support improvements in mill operations to efficiency levels commensurate with the steel industry’s top performers.

Reducing CO2 through the efficient use of energy 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.

 

Efficient use of resources, re-use and steel 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 co-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 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 co-products, recycling, energy and water management are also key focus areas.

 

In 2008, the climate action programme was launched, under which companies report data on-site - or company-level CO2 emissions.  This programme is still ongoing. Details can be found here.

A participating company or site receives a report showing the process route average emission data and range to which it can compare itself.

 

worldsteel acts as a focal point both for steel industry knowledge exchange and a shared global approach and works with several different international organisations to tackle climate change in the best way possible.