CO2 in the Carbon & Stainless Steel sectors
CO2 reductions as a Key Responsibility of the Steel Sector
The iron and steel industry is responsible for about 4-5% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Steel use is expected to increase by around 20% by 2050 compared to present levels in order to meet the needs of Earth’s growing population (1). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key and strategic priority for the steel industry, including the stainless sub-sector. The steel industry is also part of the solution to the global warming issue: indeed, the use of steel, which is an endlessly recyclable material, will facilitate the transition to a more sustainable society. In particular, steel is the material of choice for many green energy applications (for instance, electrical steel for wind generators …. See the dedicated page with our offer here) and the ability of stainless steel to resist corrosion and pressure gives it a unique longevity while drastically reducing the need for maintenance.
In addition, in the global highly competitive Steel, Stainless & Alloys market, over 40% of the volumes are traded internationally according to the WorldSteel Association. In this context, policy-makers must create a level playing field to ensure that companies in one region are not put at a competitive disadvantage and therefore, partnership between governments and the steel industry is key.
The technical and regulatory conditions to allow the European steel industry (including the stainless steel sector) to achieve its decarbonization ambition, fully in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, have been outlined by Eurofer in a detailed position paper (link). Furthermore, a technological roadmap(2) has been developed jointly between Eurofer and Estep to support the decarbonization of the European industry, covering both blast-furnace and Electric Arc Furnance (EAF) production. While Aperam is already a leader in terms of carbon footprint, as a member of both Eurofer and ESTEP, we endorse the outlined recommendations and action plans and we have set ambitious goals to reduce further our CO2 emissions.
At global level, the need for appropriate support and actions from governments and regulators has also been underlined by the WorldSteel Association (of which Aperam is also a member), and is detailed in a recent position paper entitled Climate change and the production of iron and steel.
(1) according to the Worldsteel Association
(2) Proposal for a Clean Steel Partnership – ESTEP – 2020 (available at: https://www.estep.eu/assets/Uploads/ec-rtd-he-partnerships-for-clean-steel-low-carbon-steelmaking.pdf)
Stainless steel sub-sector's specificities
Stainless steel is one subcategory of steel that contains a minimum of 10.5% of chromium, a chemical element that grants this material the property to resist corrosion. In addition to corrosion resistance, which gives it an extremely long useful life, stainless steel has other advantages like mechanical strength, abrasion resistance, acid resistance and aesthetic qualities. These advantages, among others, explain that the compound annual growth rate of stainless steel over the last 40 years was double that of standard carbon steel(3).
Knowing that stainless steel is endlessly recyclable without any loss of quality, the main limitation to its abundance in the form of scrap is its durability: its impressive life-time ranks in average between 15 years (metal goods) to 50 years (infrastructure such as bridges or building parts). Also, the small volumes of stainless scrap are often mixed and get “lost” in the streams of normal steel scraps.
This situation is likely to change, firstly because the scrap market will enter a new phase globally, as an increasing share of steel-containing products reach their end life, and secondly because the stainless steel volumes may reach thresholds justifying the development of specific recycling networks.
Finally, like other steels, stainless steel can be made using iron ore and a carbon-rich element in a blast furnace with mined alloys (mainly ferrochrome and nickel) being added in a second step. Alternatively, it can be produced from scrap metal in an electric arc furnace (EAF). Today, it is estimated that the majority of the world’s stainless steel production remains based on the reduction of iron ore and other metal ores: only 23% scraps is being used in China, which accounts for 59% of Worldwide production(3). However, scrap recycling in an EAF is the main process to make stainless steel in early industrialized regions such as North America and Europe.
Aperam with fellow European Producers have developed a specific roadmap heralded by EUROFER in the above-mentioned recent position paper (link), which describes the industry’s ambitions and the key conditions for its success.
To see Aperam’s specific CO2 roadmap, click here.