Andrew Purvis

Director, Safety, Health and Environment, worldsteel

22 December 2020

Commitments to decarbonise the global economy are gaining momentum.

China has pledged to hit peak emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2060. The EU, Japan and South Korea are all aiming for net zero by 2050. The Biden administration in the USA is rejoining the Paris Agreement.

In this context, and as one of the hard to abate industrial sectors, the steel industry recognises that we need to act. Our industry is a truly global one, with steel producers operating in different circumstances all over the world, which means there will be no single solution path that will get us to where we need to be.

Instead, we at worldsteel advocate the need for a three-track parallel approach that will not only see our own emissions reduced, but will help the entire global economy make a shift to more sustainable ways of operating.


Track one: Reducing our own impact

  • step up: This worldsteel initiative is a multistep process covering raw materials, energy input, yield and maintenance that can be used to support improvements in operational efficiency. worldsteel has developed a clear 4-stage efficiency review process, based on leading practise that will support our members in optimising raw material quality, energy efficiency, process yield and process reliability. These represent the key operational levers that steelmakers are focusing on to improve the operational efficiency and environmental performance of their sites.
  • Maximise scrap use: In theory we could meet all demand for new steel from steel scrap. At the moment there isn’t enough steel scrap available to meet demand, but supply is increasing. We estimate that global scrap availability will reach about 1 billion tonnes by 2030 up from around 750 Mt today. This dynamic is likely to mean increased production of steel via the electric arc furnace (EAF) route and increased use of steel scrap in the blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace (BF-BOF) route, both of which will lead to a reduction in the amount of CO2 per tonne of steel produced.
  • Breakthrough technology: Many of our members are investing considerable resources in new technologies which, when operating at commercial scale over the next couple of decades, will revolutionise steelmaking as we know it today. The use of hydrogen to replace fossil fuels and the use of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies to prevent emissions are going to make huge differences.

Track two: Developing advanced steel products to enable societal transformation

Steel makes huge contributions in reducing the emissions of other sectors everywhere around the world.

In everything from zero energy buildings to future mobility, not to mention renewable energy infrastructure, decarbonsiation is going to be a steel-intensive process. It is important that this is widely understood.

Track three: Promoting material efficiency through the circular economy

As a 100% recyclable material that loses none of its properties no matter how many times it is recycled, steel is a perfect fit for a flourishing circular economy.

We need to work with customers to make sure they understand this by, for instance, encouraging them to take into account the whole life cycle of steel products when making their design and material choices. This way they can avoid using materials that appear to be more environmentally friendly in the use phase of a given product, but which are actually worse overall when taking into account the production and end-of-life phases.

I was happy to talk to Alex Cameron, Founder of decarb connect in more detail about our three-track approach. I’ll be joining decarb connect’s Digital Festival on 27 January where I will be part of a panel discussion on how to tackle the challenges of bringing CCUS technology to the market.