Energy key to green steel targets: steel leaders

Steel industry leaders in the United States announced at a press conference on Tuesday, May 17, that renewable energy sources hold the key to bringing already-green electric-arc furnaces (EAFs) to carbon neutrality

The US, with over 70% of its steel coming from electric-arc furnaces instead of the emission-heavy blast furnaces that still dominate in most of the world, is already ahead of the sustainability curve, participants said at the Association for Iron and Steel Technology’s AISTech conference.

The US has millions more tons of EAF capacity planned to come online in the next few years, with more domestic steelmakers prioritizing the transition to the low emissions, recycled feedstock and better energy efficiency of EAFs.

“EAFs, in particular, have definitive ways to get to carbon neutrality,” according to Steel Dynamics Inc (SDI) chief executive officer Mark Millett. “It needs to be an all-encompassing journey.”

The next major step is in creating a sustainable steel industry is to power those EAFs with sustainable energy sources, advocates and executives agreed.

Government policy should be focused on expanding the clean electricity grid
Kevin Dempsey, American Iron and Steel Institute president and chief executive officer

“Government policy should be focused on expanding the clean electricity grid,” American Iron and Steel Institute president and chief executive officer Kevin Dempsey said.

Commercial Metals Company’s (CMC) planned Arizona micro-mill, scheduled to come online in early 2023, will be powered by an on-site solar array that will serve as “an example of the next forefront of green steel,” chief executive officer Barbara Smith said.

“The biggest progress for us going forward is our energy source,” Smith added. “We need to talk about nuclear power.”

“There are limitations to solar and wind... We need to start talking about other energy systems, and that would go an enormous way to lowering [the carbon footprint of] EAFs.”

Dempsey agreed: “Small, modular nuclear reactors will have to play a key part” to fully transition the industry to sustainable energy sources.

Nucor Corp announced a $15 million investment in nuclear power company NuScale in April as part of a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

SDI already powers its Butler, Indiana, mill through a grid that derives a portion of its energy through nuclear power, Millett said.

For the oft-hyped hydrogen, its role in green steelmaking is largely misunderstood, according to Millett.

“When people talk about hydrogen steelmaking, it’s really hydrogen ironmaking,” Millett said. “Sweden is taking a strong approach there. But it’s hydrogen ironmaking to get to EAF steelmaking, where we already are.”

“By the time hydrogen gets [EU steelmakers] to EAF, [US steelmakers] will already be carbon neutral,” he added.

“Hydrogen is important [for products that require virgin iron units],” Dempsey said. “That’s where it’s going to help in the future.”

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