Scientists have secured funding to investigate ways the UK steel industry can be decarbonised within 30 years.

Steel manufacturing is a high carbon process. According to figures from the
World Steel Association, every tonne that is manufactured creates 1.8 tonnes of
carbon dioxide, a key gas responsible for climate change.

With the UK legally committed to be a net-zero emitter of greenhouse gases
by 2050
, the industry faces an uncertain future unless it ends its dependence
on carbon.

“We will …develop a very detailed, fully-costed ‘route map’ of technologies and policies which will enable industry to make this vital transformation without it being saddled with unrealistic costs.”

Professor Bill Gale, University of Leeds

An interdisciplinary team from the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield has
won £1.26 million from the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS),
which is funded by UK Research and Innovation, to develop approaches that blend
technology and policy with the aim of eliminating the industry’s dependence on
fossil fuels.

Professor Nick Eyre, CREDS Director, said: “Decarbonising the UK energy
system is a major national challenge for the coming decades, nowhere more so
than in major industrial processes. I am therefore delighted that colleagues
from Leeds and Sheffield are joining CREDS to research steel industry
decarbonisation.”

Professor William Gale, from the School of Process and Chemical Engineering at Leeds and the project’s
principal investigator, said: “The reality is the steel industry in the UK has
to decarbonise, but this has to be done sensitively otherwise there is a risk
the industry will relocate to where the rules on carbon are more lax.

“Our challenge is to bring about real change without eroding the wafer-thin
margins on which the industry operates.

“Steel is an important material so we can’t just stop manufacturing it. This
project will bring together a range of experts: from scientists and engineers
involved in researching alternative methods of production or ways to recover it
from scrap – to policy and business experts analysing the policy initiatives
and incentives needed for this change.”

The image shows the organge glow from super hot metal in a blast furnace

The chemistry at the heart of the steel production process uses carbon.
Coke, which comes from coal, is used as a reducing agent in the blast furnace.
Carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product. The liquid hot metal which comes
out of the blast furnace is saturated in carbon and the excess carbon is then
removed in a basic oxygen furnace to produce crude steel.

According to the European Steel Association (EUROFER), about 50 per cent of
the steel produced in Europe is derived from scrap metal. Scrap is melted in
electric arc furnaces which require huge amounts of energy. Recycled steel is
only ‘clean’ if it is recovered in furnaces that use green electricity. There
is competition for this electricity, for example, for recharging electric
vehicles.

Professor Gale said: “Our research will investigate a range of emerging
technologies and solutions. We will look at whether there is a way you can
integrate a number of different approaches. We will delve into the costs and
timescales and develop a very detailed, fully-costed ‘route map’ of
technologies and policies which will enable industry to make this vital
transformation without it being saddled with unrealistic costs.”

The research at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield will also help the
Government achieve its Clean Growth Strategy, a commitment made in 2017 to grow
and develop the UK economy at the same time as reducing greenhouse gas
emissions.

For more information, please contact David Lewis in the press office at the University of Leeds: pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk



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