What is Green Steel?

Updated on: 20/11/2022

The steel industry is a significant contributor of global carbon dioxide emissions – the steel making process alone is estimated to produce anywhere from 6% to 7% of all greenhouse gasses worldwide!

With increasing pressure to reduce the impact on the environment, industry experts are making concerted efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, especially when it comes to primary steelmaking.

Green steel is steel made in such a way as to have the lowest carbon footprint possible during production – this can vary from producer to producer.

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What makes it green?

Green steel is considered ‘green’ or environmentally friendly because of its reduced carbon footprint.

The benchmark for a carbon footprint is typically based upon producing steel from iron ore using a blast furnace; a reduction in this footprint is achievable through the implementation of alternative technologies.

The green steel production process

Theoretically, you can make green steel in any way that reduces its resulting carbon footprint; in practice, there are a few standard applications.

The most promising green steel manufacturing process is the hydrogen-based direct reduction of iron ore. This involves chemically reducing the solid iron ore using hydrogen to produce an intermediate product known as ‘sponge iron.’ The sponge iron is then fed into an electric arc furnace where it is melted to produce the steel.

Instead of burning coking coal with a traditional blast furnace, the main energy input during this process is electricity, reducing atmospheric emissions. If the electricity is supplied from a reduced carbon or green source, emissions go down even further.

While the technology is not necessarily new, producing green steel in an economical way is still challenging and further process improvements are needed to shift a higher percentage of steelmaking to more environmentally friendly ways.

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Future for green steel and the steel industry

In the coming years, we anticipate an increased push for green steel production, largely due to political pressures.

Governments worldwide are under fire to reduce their countries’ impact on the environment; the most likely outcome of this development is increased regulations on large greenhouse gas emitting industries.

Whether it is carbon taxes, R&D support/rebates, or increased environmental regulations on new installations, it’s inevitable that we will see a new steel production method that creates fewer greenhouse gasses.

Increasing green steel manufacturing also has broader implications for the energy sector, since the demand for green electricity will increase significantly.

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