In October worldsteel organised its inaugural Open Forum, which aimed to engage with stakeholders in the steelmaking ecosystem, including equipment manufacturers, suppliers, international organisations and academia, and to discuss issues related to the steel industry’s decarbonisation transition.
The event itself took place in Brussels on 4-5 October and I could not have been happier with how it turned out. It was very well attended with excellent presentations, very active participants, and constructive discussions. The agenda focused on enabling conditions, and most speakers were external from many different parts of the steel ecosystem including international initiatives, NGOs, suppliers and consultancies.
There is now a relatively large number of reports and roadmaps trying to describe what the transition might look like, spanning from the IEA’s Iron and Steel Technology Roadmap issued in 2019 all the way to the Mission Possible Partnership’s strategy document, Making Net-zero Steel Possible, published in September this year.
It is clear that these roadmaps have very similar key messages, including the need for breakthrough technology not yet available. There are also massive resource implications e.g. renewable energy, regional differences in technology and policy options depending on local circumstances, and the need for a new level of partnerships between all actors in the steel ecosystem.
From the sessions on worldsteel member company activities and partnerships it was evident that the transition is under way both within steel companies and in the supply chain, but that challenges still remain for example in linking demand from customers and their willingness to pay a premium for low-carbon steel.
We could also see an increased interest from iron ore suppliers and energy companies to create partnerships with steel companies, as the emissions in the steel industry constitute their scope 3 emissions and often far outweigh the direct emissions from their own operations.
The discussion on raw materials and energy emphasised that the investment in production and infrastructure for renewable energy is lagging behind and urgently needs to be scaled up. The current state of energy markets and deployment of renewable energy seems to indicate that it will be difficult to reach the targets for hydrogen DRI in Europe.
The clearest message from the two days was the call for common methodologies and clear definitions of low-carbon steel production and products. Many of the international initiatives need definitions for tracking and target setting and we now have many definitions all looking quite similar but differing in important details.
The one that is quoted the most is the definition for near-zero steel production from the IEA, as requested by the German G7 Presidency, Achieving Net Zero Heavy Industry Sectors in G7 Members, published in May of this year. It makes use of a sliding scale for scrap input into the steel making process and links this to the emissions from steel production. There seems to be a growing consensus that this approach could be suitable for policy application that focuses on the production of steel as it brings together all production routes in one approach. However, it is not suitable for products since it focuses on the steel production itself and does not cover product specific processes such as rolling and coating. Products are likely to need a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach.
We had a fantastic inaugural event, one that we will repeat next year. We will focus on some of the topics that did not feature in this year’s event, suggestions include customer perspectives and financing for the transition, and take stock of the developments in the sector.
The presentations are now available for anyone interested to view, and I would very much encourage you to have a look.
I take the opportunity to extend my thanks to all individuals and organisations who participated, and I look forward to seeing you all again next year!