How to Decarbonize the Steel Industry

When you think of industries that are likely to produce a lot of carbon emissions, the steel sector probably features quite highly on your list. 

Responsible for around 5% of carbon dioxide emissions in the EU and 8% globally, it is clear that the steel industry needs to work hard to reduce its carbon footprint and help prevent global warming. 

Decarbonize the Steel Industry
Decarbonize the Steel Industry – Photo by Anamul Rezwan on Pexels.com

Read on to find out more about the decarbonization of the steel industry. Plus, how you can reduce your carbon emissions. 

How much carbon does the steel industry produce?

In 2020 alone, the steel industry produced 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions. To put that into perspective, that is around 8% of the total carbon emissions produced worldwide, making it one of the highest emitting materials alongside cement and aluminum. 

There are 15 countries that produce the majority of the world’s steel, with many choosing to produce this material locally to save money rather than invest in more sustainable practices. 

What causes carbon emissions from steel?

There are three stages in the production of steel: the mining of iron ore, the reduction into iron, and the melting into steel. During the Industrial Revolution, steel started to be mass-produced using a process known as the Bessemer process, which burnt iron ore with coal to reduce it to metallic iron. 

Although this was highly profitable for steel manufacturers, it was not so beneficial to the environment. 

Today, scrap metal can be turned into steel without the need for burning coal, but this cannot meet the global demand for this material. This means that new steel is still being produced using coal mining, which, in turn, produces carbon emissions. 

How are companies in the steel industry reducing carbon emissions?

Fortunately, steel companies have started to sit up and take notice of the damage they are doing to the planet and have begun to invest in new technologies that are designed to reduce and even eliminate co2 emissions from steel production

One of these technologies is carbon capture and storage (CCS), which has proven to be highly effective at helping steel companies to shift to net zero steel by 2050. 

New regulations such as the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) have also helped to support businesses in the steel sector as they work to reduce their carbon emissions. 

Finally, it is estimated that 30% of the primary steel production in the EU will be decarbonized using renewable hydrogen by 2030. 

What is the future of the steel industry?  

To achieve the net zero emissions target by the year 2050, it is clear that the steel industry still has a lot of work to do. 

Ideally, the sector should have a strategy that includes carbon capture, as this can dramatically reduce fossil fuel carbon emissions and cut the carbon footprint of steel. 

Steel manufacturers need to prepare themselves for the fact that making low Co2 steel is going to cost more than their current production costs but that it is a necessity rather than a choice.