On the Use and Future of Green Steel Production

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On the Use and Future of Green Steel Production

use future green steel

As many of our readers are well aware, themes like sustainability and eco-friendliness have become much more well-known and popular — and with good reason. Helping reduce greenhouse gasses and pollution around the globe is very important, and many industries have a role to play here — the steel industry is no exception.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to provide a huge range of steel products and steel services to clients, and we know many of our customers are looking for sustainable solutions for their needs. One possible option that was recently introduced to our industry, and has exploded in popularity in many sectors, is known as green steel. What is green steel, how can steel achieve this designation, and what is the future like in this important area? Let’s go over this and some other important related themes to consider.

Steel is a Major Contributor to Emissions

It’s a simple reality we in the steel industry have had to face in recent years: Steel production is a significant contributor to carbon dioxide emissions around the world, with some estimates pegging this industry at between 6% and 7% of all greenhouse gasses. This is a large number, and it’s one that we must work to improve if we’re going to hope to address climate change in any meaningful way — in fact, many in the steel industry have pledged to do just that.

The good news is that there are many initiatives underway to help reduce these emissions, and it’s important that the steel industry plays its part. One specific area of focus has been on finding ways to improve efficiency in steel production, as this can help reduce the amount of energy required and also help decrease emissions.

The Promise of Green Steel

One of the key areas where these efforts have been focused is into what’s known as green steel, which refers to steel that has gone through any process to lower its carbon footprint. The baseline here is traditional production of steel, which is done using iron ore and a blast furnace; any process that can significantly reduce the carbon footprint from this template may qualify as green steel.

There are a few different ways this is often done:

  • Reduction of iron ore: Through the use of hydrogen or other gases, it may be possible to reduce the amount of iron ore required in steel production. This can have a major impact as mining and processing iron ore is a very energy-intensive process, and thus also emits a great deal of greenhouse gasses. For instance, one process here involves chemically reducing the amount of iron ore, producing what’s known as “sponge iron” — this iron will then be fed into an arc furnace, and melted to produce steel.
  • Replacing coking coal: Rather than burning coking coal to help produce the high temperatures needed for steel production, it may be possible to use other, cleaner-burning materials. This is an area of intense research, as there are many potential candidates but also many challenges that need to be overcome. For instance, one possibility here is the use of hydrogen — but this would require a very different type of steel production facility, and a great deal of infrastructure changes.
  • Use of electric arc furnaces: Electric arc furnaces (EAFs) are already in widespread use in steel production, but they may play an even bigger role in the future. EAFs can be powered using renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, which can further help lower emissions. Additionally, EAFs have a much higher efficiency than blast furnaces (the traditional method of steel production), meaning that less energy is required overall.
  • Decarbonizing steel: Finally, a more general category of methods aims to decarbonize steel production altogether. This is a very ambitious goal, but one that many in the industry are working towards. For instance, one initiative here is the development of “carbon-neutral” steel, which would involve using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to trap and store carbon emissions from steel production, preventing them from entering the atmosphere.

The Future of Green Steel

There’s no doubt that green steel production is an important area of focus for the steel industry, and one that will become increasingly important in the years to come. The methods described above are just a few of the many initiatives underway to help reduce emissions from steel production — and as research and development continues, it’s likely that even more progress will be made.

In the meantime, it’s important for everyone to do their part in helping reduce emissions. This includes consumers, who can make an impact by choosing products made with green steel (or other sustainable materials) whenever possible. It also includes businesses and industries, who must work to adopt more sustainable practices. And finally, it includes governments, who must create policies and regulations that incentivize and encourage the use of green steel and other sustainable materials.

For instance, the European Union has already taken a leading role here, with its recent introduction of the “Green Deal” — a plan that includes a number of measures aimed at making the EU’s economy more sustainable. This includes a goal to make all steel production in the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

While this may seem like a tall order, it’s important to remember that the steel industry has made great strides in reducing its emissions over the past few decades. In fact, thanks to changes like those described above, the EU’s steel sector has already managed to reduce its emissions by 65% since 1990.

This is a good start, but there’s still more work to be done. It’s clear that the use of green steel will play a vital role in achieving the goals set by the EU’s Green Deal — and in helping to create a more sustainable future for us all.

For more on this, or to learn about any of our steel products or services, speak to the team at Wasatch Steel today.