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Steel products and applications help other industries to reduce their environmental footprint

Scroll down to discover all the steel innovations for sustainable solutions

SHIPS & CONTAINERS

Steel ships and containers allow for enormous loads to be transported in one go. Shipping consumes less energy and emits less GHGs compared to other modes of transport.

Ships and Containers

Shipping is a huge part of everyday life and the size of steel ships and containers allow for enormous loads to be transported in one go. 90% of global cargo is carried by sea. 17 million shipping containers are currently in use across the world and the majority is made from steel. Without steel there would be no megaships.

Shipping consumes less energy and emits less GHGs compared to other modes of transport.

CO² emissions per tonne of cargo transported over 1 km by ship is 3g while by train and lorry truck it is 45g and 560g respectively.

The entire container voyage from China to Europe is equal in CO² emissions to approximately 200km of long-haul trucking in Europe.

A bottle of French wine shipped to New York has a lower carbon transportation footprint than a bottle of California wine transported by truck to the city.

Also, shipping goods by sea typically costs 12-16 times less than sending it by aeroplane.

Emma Maersk

Photo credit: Maersk Line

Shipping Containers

Photo credit: www.GlynLowe.com

PACKAGING & RECYCLING

Globally, about 7.2 Mt of steel packaging is recycled each year. This saves 11 Mt of CO², equivalent to taking about 280,000 cars off the road.

Recycling

Almost 200 billion cans of food are produced each year. Compared to other food preservation methods, steel cans save energy because refrigeration and freezing is not needed. They are also tamper-resistant and protect food and drink from moisture, oxygen and light - helping to preserve the nutritional value of their contents without the need for additives.

In the last 20 years, the weight of steel cans has been reduced on average by 33%. The average thickness of a 3-piece food can is down from 0.2 mm in 1986 to 0.13 mm. The carbon footprint of steel food cans has gone down by 33% since 2000.

Globally, about 7.2 Mt of steel packaging is recycled each year. This saves 11 Mt of CO² equivalents which would have come from new steel production. This saving is equivalent to taking approximately 280,000 cars off the road. Each can recycled saves about one and a half times its weight in CO².

Steel is 100% recyclable and is easily recovered by magnetic separation. Steel packaging recycling rate has reached over 90% in some countries, and steel is the Europe’s most recycled packaging material.

Steel Cans

Photo credit: Getty Images

Steel Recycling

Photo credit: Blahedo

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Steel helps to turn buildings into power stations. Innovative integrated steel building components are used to generate, collect, store and release solar and geothermal energy.

Steel helps to turn buildings into power stations. Innovative integrated steel building components - from roofing and cladding to flooring systems - are used to generate, collect, store and release solar and geothermal energy.

In the Solcer house, electricity is generated from solar energy by Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) installed on the roof and by the steel Solar Air Collectors on the walls and stored in batteries. This energy is released throughout the building via heating, lighting, electrical equipment and water use in the building. The house is an energy positive building. It generates more energy than it uses.

Steel also plays a key role in efficient energy management of existing buildings. Steel solar air collectors, together with a solar storage unit, have been used to retrofit an industrial building from the 1990s, making it possible to eliminate gas consumption and produce an estimated energy saving of 75%.

Steel energy piles are also being used with heat pumps to collect heat from the ground in winter, and to use as free cooling during summer. Steel piles enable utilisation of demanding soil conditions for renewable energy collection. For example, energy piles can satisfy 71% of the heating needs of single-storey commercial buildings in the form of free heat, as well as up to 100% of the cooling needs.

The Solcer house

Photo credit: SPECIFIC

The near zero-energy hall

Photo credit: Ruukki

CEMENT PRODUCTION

Blast furnace slag, a steel industry by-product, is used in cement production. Substituting clinker with granulated blast furnace slag would allow significant reductions in CO² emissions up to 200 Mt of CO² annually.

Ships and Containers

The steel industry reduces not only its own greenhouse gas emissions through various innovations, but also those of the cement industry which utilises a major steelmaking by-product - blast furnace slag. Blast furnace slag is a by-product of the production of iron in a blast furnace. Molten slag is separated from the liquid iron, granulated using water sprays, dried and ground to a fine powder. At this point it becomes ground granulated blast furnace slag, otherwise known as slag cement. Slag cement is generally used to replace between 20 and 80% of Portland cement in concrete, depending on the application, quality requirements and environmental conditions.

Cement is made from ground limestone and clay. Within cement production, clinker (rounded nodules between 1mm and 25 mm formed in the heated kiln) production consumes the largest percentage of energy and is responsible for most of the industry’s CO² emissions.

According to the International Energy Agency, substituting cement clinker (marble size pellet formed during cement manufacturing process) with slag cement would allow significant reductions in annual energy consumption and CO² emissions - up to 500 Million Gigajoules (GJ), or 200 Mt of CO² annually.

During the last 10 years, over 29 Mt of slag cement have been consumed in the U.S, which saved the equivalent in CO² emissions of 4.1 million passenger cars and enough energy to power 596,000 homes.

Cement production

Ground granulated blast furnace slag

STRONGER BUT LIGHTER VEHICLES

Modern cars are increasingly built with new Advanced High-Strength Steels that are stronger and can achieve at least 35% mass reduction. They help reduce overall vehicle life cycle GHGs.

Vehicles

In 2016, around 95 million vehicles were produced worldwide. Steel used per vehicle is 900 kg on average, totalling approximately 80 million tonnes of steel use for the automotive sector. Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) are now used for nearly every new vehicle design. Steel makes up more than 50% of today’s vehicles and using AHSS makes lighter, optimised vehicle designs that enhance safety and improve fuel economy.

New grades of Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) enable carmakers to reduce structural weight by 25-39% compared to conventional steel, and total vehicle weight by up to 10%. When applied to a typical five-passenger family car, the overall mass of the vehicle is reduced by approximately 160 kg, which corresponds to a lifetime saving of 3 to 3.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases over the vehicle’s total life cycle.

Many steel companies have developed new grades of innovative high-strength steels allowing auto components to be made thinner and lighter without sacrificing safety.

In 2013, WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, completed a three-year programme that delivers fully engineered, steel intensive designs for electric vehicles. Known as the FutureSteelVehicle (FSV), the project features Advanced High-Strength Steel body structure designs that reduce the body-in-white mass to 177 kg and, along with a battery electric powertrain, reduces total life cycle GHG emissions by up to 70% depending on the energy source.

Future Steel Vehicle

Chevrolet Silverado features high-strength steel

ELECTRIC MOBILITY

There would be no electric mobility without steel. Electrical steels are essential to build high-speed motors for electric and hybrid vehicles

ELECTRIC MOBILITY

There would be no electric mobility without steel. Steel is essential for electric vehicles. Electrical steels are used to build high-speed motors for electric and hybrid cars. The motors are needed to get the power from the battery onto the road.

For the efficiency of electric powertrain, high flux density and minimal core losses at high frequencies are important. Newly developed electrical steel has 30% lower core losses than current standard grades, helping electrical vehicles further reduce their carbon footprint.

In addition, new electrical steels are being developed for the next generation of electrical motors for vehicles of the future.

Researchers are developing electrical steels containing twice as much silicon than in motors used today. These steels allow higher frequencies - jumping from today's 60 hertz all the way to 400 hertz. This produces a much higher motor power density, which means motors can be smaller, lighter, more powerful and more cost effective.

Global interest in electric vehicles is growing dramatically. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2016 was a record year for electric vehicle sales. More than 750,000 electric vehicles were sold worldwide in 2016 of which more than 40 % were sold in China. Currently, there are over 2 million electric vehicles on the road around the world.

Electrical steel

Electric cars

ARTIFICIAL REEFS

Retired steel applications have been used to create more than 400 artificial reefs worldwide, from subway cars and ships to retired armoured personnel carriers.

Reefs

Retired steel applications have been used to create more than 400 artificial reefs in the seas surrounding the Caribbean, Florida, Alabama and South East Asia - providing a home for millions of varieties of fish and marine life.

Over 2,500 New York subway cars have been repurposed to create an underwater reef off the coast of Delaware, U.S.A., resulting in an astonishing boost to marine life - 400 times as much food per square metre as the sand bottom.

Decommissioning oil and gas rigs provides fish with skyscraper-style living, meaning the amount of fish that can thrive per square metre is 27 times higher than the number of fish that a square metre of sea floor with only natural rocky reefs can support.

Artificial reefs

Photo credit: Wolf Hilbertz

Subway cars repurposed to create reefs

Photo credit: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

SEA FORESTATION

Steel slag sea forests provide a high proportion of minerals like iron and calcium. They dramatically boost biomass and capture up to 0.5 tonnes of CO² per tonne of the structure.

SEA FORESTATION

Steel slag, a useful by-product from iron and steel making processes, has been applied successfully in marine forestation projects around the world in response to reef degradation along coastlines.

Triton is one example of a steel slag marine structure that was developed to make artificial reefs for sea forestation in Korea. Steel slag sea forests have been built in over ten coastal areas in the east and south seas that have proven to be highly effective in terms of enhancing the marine environment for biodiversity. The structures provide a high proportion of minerals like iron and calcium that benefit the marine environment, creating ideal conditions for the growth of seaweed and other sea organisms.

For example, in the coastal area of Pyeongsan, there was a dramatic increase in the volume of fish caught in just 18 months, with 10 times more biomass compared to that in the surrounding areas. The number of species of algae around the Ecklonia cava increased 2.5 times.

The marine forests with the Triton structure also capture carbon dioxide through slag carbonisation and algae photosynthesis at a rate of 0.1 to 0.5 tonnes of CO² per year per tonne of Triton. The restoration of the marine ecosystem has also contributed to the increase of fish productivity and, therefore, the local economy.

The Triton - steel slag marine structure

Photo credit: POSCO

Sea forestation by steel reefs

Photo credit: POSCO

DECOMMISSIONED OIL RIGS

Steel is the main component of rigs. Decommissioned rigs are reused as offshore wind turbines, diving resorts, artificial reefs and cruise ship ports-of-call.

Oil Rigs

Oil rigs are mainly built with steel as they need to withstand hostile ocean weather and the most turbulent of high seas. There are currently 470 oil or gas rigs and 3,000 pipelines in need of decommissioning in water all over the world.

Decommissioning these facilities is a complex process. The removal of nine Norwegian rigs from the Ekofisk field, for instance, involves removal of 113,500 tonnes of steel - “equivalent to the weight of 54 London Eyes”.

Reusing steel requires fewer resources than recycling. Instead of removing the rigs, innovative ways of reusing these oil rigs

have been suggested and realised. Due to the long life time of steel, decommissioned oil rigs can be reused for other activities including artificial reefs, offshore wind turbines, diving resorts, and cruise ship ports-of-call.

A successful example of the reuse of decommissioned structures is a refurbished oil platform, now a hotel for snorkelers and scuba divers, off the east coast of Sabah in Malaysia.

An oil rig transformed into a dive resort in the sea

Photo credit: weburbanist.com

The Noah Oasis: Vertical Bio-Habitats

Photo credit: weburbanist.com

FERTILISERS & LIMING MATERIALS

Steel slags are a valuable resource in agriculture. They are used as fertilisers and liming materials, improving plant nutrition and soil quality.

FERTILISERS & LIMING MATERIALS

For every tonne of steel produced in an integrated steelmaking plant, 400 to 500 kg of by-products are produced. The majority of these by-products are slags. These slags are not waste but a valuable resource.

The use of slags from iron and steel production as fertilisers and liming materials has been a long tradition in modern society. Slags from blast furnaces and basic oxygen furnaces have been approved fertilisers in Germany for more than 60 and 30 years, respectively. They have been used in all types of crop production and landscaping in the US since the 1920s. In Japan, slag silicate fertiliser has been used in rice cultivation for many years.

The slags contain useful elements like calcium, magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron, sulphur, manganese and other

elements required in fertilisers. They are useful properties for plant nutrition and soil quality. Their alkaline properties also remedy soil acidity.

Farmers use slag fertilisers to maximise yields of cultivated crops and pasture. These nutritious materials are not only used in home vegetable gardens to improve soil texture and quality but also in greenhouses to make rich soil for plant beds and potting soil. They are used in parks and golf courses as well as land reclamation projects to correct soil acidity.

Moreover, calcium and magnesium in the slags have a better solubility than that of magnesium carbonate in natural limestone and dolomite. The use of these slags helps reduce natural resource exploitation and landfill.

Steel slags are used as calcium silicate fertiliser

Photo credit: Nippon Slag Association

Steel slags are valuable resources in agriculture

Photo credit: ArcelorMittal

AIRCRAFT ENGINES & LANDING GEAR

Highly valuable steel parts, like engines and landing gear, are extracted from decommissioned aircraftand are remanufactured and reused as spare parts for aircraft in service.

AIRCRAFT ENGINES & LANDING GEAR

Steel is a key material used for aircraft engines and landing gear. These valuable steel parts are extracted from decommissioned aircraft and are remanufactured and reused as spare parts for aircraft in service.

Aircraft are generally decommissioned after 20 to 25 years of service. Currently, this amounts to around 800 planes a year. Many are stored until they get a new owner, or a second life. Germany’s national carrier, Lufthansa, has developed a new approach which sees their own aircraft recycled and reused to service their existing fleet. Many valuable parts are extracted from the plane as soon as it is decommissioned. These include parts which contain a lot of valuable steels,

like the landing gear and engines. For example, the four engines on a Boeing 747-400 contain elements which are worth around €7 million, accounting for 80% of the value of the aircraft's reusable parts.

The company removes all of the reusable components from an aircraft before they are overhauled and tested. These components are remanufactured and reused as spare parts for Lufthansa aircraft which are still in service. The quality of the remanufactured parts is just as good, and they are just as safe as new parts because they have to meet the same certification requirements and pass the same functional tests.

Aircraft engines contain a lot of valuable steels

Photo credit: Richard Gray and bbc.com

Steel is a key material used for landing gear

Photo credit: Howard Timberlake and bbc.com

REPURPOSED BUILDINGS

Steel's long product life and adaptability enable old buildings to be reused or converted for different purposes. CO² emissions savings from building reuse are estimated at 1 to 1.5 kg CO²/kg steel.

REPURPOSED BUILDINGS

Steel's long product life and adaptability enable old buildings and bridges to be reused or converted to different purposes, saving resources and costs. Steel facilitates the conversion of obsolete buildings, such as warehouses or train stations into modern living or working spaces, extending their useful life, saving resources and reducing costs. CO² emissions savings from building reuse are estimated at 1 to 1.5 kg CO²/kg steel.

The newly-opened bus terminal in Schiphol airport was an RAF hangar in London in 1942. The same structure was reused in Rotterdam airport in 1958. Then in 2015 it was converted into a modern bus terminal in Schiphol airport in the Netherlands.

In the US, more and more bridges are replaced with salvaged steel beams instead of using new beams. The Green Valley Road Bridge in Ohio is the fifth bridge to be replaced with

repurposed steel beams, saving $51,000 in superstructure costs. In 2003, St. Louis County Bridge in Minnesota was also replaced with 30 year old steel beams taken from another bridge that was previously removed from service.

Buildings are increasingly being designed for demountability and reusability by using steel components. These buildings can be easily and cost-effectively repurposed for other uses at the end of their life. Amsterdam courthouse and distribution centre in Schiphol airport are such cases. They are 100% demountable and reusable.

Reuse not only extends the product's life cycle and life time but also avoids transporting and remelting steel scrap. This has significant advantages for the environment and maximises resource use.

The RAF hangar in London in 1942

Photo credit: 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association

The bus terminal in Schiphol airport in 2015

Photo credit: Claessens Erdman Architects

LONGER & STRONGER BRIDGES

High performance steels build longer and stronger bridges that shorten distances and carry more vehicles. The Sydney Harbour Bridge has saved 12 Mt of CO² equivalents from reduced distance travelled over 80 years.

LONGER & STRONGER BRIDGES

High performance steels build longer and stronger bridges that shorten travel distances and carry more weight. Reduced travel time and distance means reduced fuel consumption and thus, reduced CO² emissions.

The Copper River Bridge in the USA shortens the journey from Mount Pleasant to Charleston from 39 km to 11.6km, saving 167,000 tonnes of CO² equivalents every year from vehicles' exhaust pipes. This has a lifetime implication of 16.7 Mt of savings in CO² equivalents based on average petrol consumption and current automotive design.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia has been standing more than 80 years. A total CO² savings over all those

years from the reduced distance from 17.6 km to 7 km (from Cammeray to Sydney passing over the bridge) is estimated at 11.85 million tonnes.

Steel has enabled bridges to be even longer. There are more than 20 bridges worldwide that are longer than 25 km. The longest bridge in the world is the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China at 165km long.

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan is the world's longest suspension bridge at 3.9 km long. The bridge can withstand winds of 286 kilometres per hour as well as earthquakes measuring up to magnitude of 8.5. The bridge carries nearly 23,000 cars each day.

The Sydney Harbour bridge in Australia

Photo credit: Adam.J.W.C.

The Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge in China

Photo credit: Lazer Horse