Steel Production without Carbon Dioxide Emissions

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Sunnuntai 29.8.2021 klo 20:22 - Mikko Nikinmaa

One of the forgotten players in carbon emissions is steel production. It accounts for nearly 10 % of the total global emissions. Thus, steel production is 4-5 times greater emitter than air traffic, which has received a lot of attention. Further, current steel production is still largely based on iron extracted from mined ore, and not on effective recycling of used steel products.

The technology for carbon-free steel production is available. However, as with making all environmentally friendly products, making steel without carbon dioxide emissions is currently more expensive than the traditional steel production. Traditionally, steel is made from iron ore using coal as reductant. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions are high. The environmentally friendly way of producing steel would first make directly reduced iron (DRI) from iron ore using green hydrogen (hydrogen extracted from water with energy from renewable sources). The DRI and recycled steel scrap is then melted in Electric Arc Furnace (again with energy from renewable sources) and steel is produced.

As I said above, steel produced without carbon dioxide emissions is currently much more expensive than traditional coal-using production. The cost is, however, dependent on the proportion of production without carbon need. This is illustrated by the change in paper production. In 1970’s paper industry said that it would never be economically plausible to produce paper without chlorine-based bleaching. Yet, today all paper is chlorine-free and none of the paper mills have gone bankrupt because of that. Thus, once the carbon-free steel production is mainstream, the methods for such production certainly become more economical. Also, since the increased cost of steel production is directly associated with environmental actions, shouldn’t we accept it without reservations, if we say that we want sustainable economy.

Avainsanat: climate change, recycling, mining

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