It is clear that steel will play a critical role in enabling the emissions reductions envisioned in the Paris agreement to be delivered. Decarbonisation is steel intensive, whether we are talking about renewable energy, mass transport, smart cities or electrification.
However, it is also a reality that the production of 1.6 billion tonnes of steel every year leads to the emission of significant amounts of CO2 – estimated to be between 7% and 9% of the global total. So, while we are clearly part of the solution, we also contribute to the problem and need to play our part in global mitigation efforts.
Our industry is frequently described as “hard to decarbonise” and it is not difficult to see why.
Carbon is an inherent part of the process that reduces iron ore to metallic iron, and our assets are long lived and capital intensive. With the best will in the world one can’t power a blast furnace with a windmill or switch immediately to less greenhouse gas intensive EAF production – there simply isn’t enough scrap available to meet steel demand.
So, what do we do?
The first thing we need to do is ensure that the steel we produce now, using conventional technology, is produced in a greenhouse gas and energy efficient manner. worldsteel’s Board of Directors have charged the Association with facilitating the exchange of leading practice to ensure that the performance of the best can be replicated by the many.
The next step will be to develop and deploy breakthrough technology. worldsteel’s members are pursuing a wide variety of research and development projects that aim to radically change the way we make iron and steel.
For example, Tata Steel are piloting HIsarna, a technology that is potentially well suited to the use of CCS, SSAB are examining the use of hydrogen as an alternate reductant, while ArcelorMittal are piloting their ‘Steelanol’ CCUS initiative as part of a wider decarbonisation strategy.
While these projects differ in approach, they do have some commonalities. Successful deployment at scale will require access to affordable clean hydrogen and carbon free electricity in large volumes, and if CCS is to play a part, access to affordable CO2 transmission and storage infrastructure.
Finally, development and implementation of new technologies will require heavy investments from the steel industry but also a real partnership with national and regional governments, to share risks and costs.
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