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Sustainable Steel

Steel and Climate Protection: applied CO2 mitigation

The environmental footprint of a material or a product is best estimated through a life-cycle perspective. LCA approaches (Life Cycle Analysis) take the production phase, the use phase and end-of life recycling into account.

Overall greenhouse gas emissions in the EU 27 have decreased by 17.5 per cent in the years from 1990 to 2011. The steel sector’s emissions fell by 25 per cent from 1990 to 2010. The European Union is on its way to meet its climate targets. EU steel producers are among the global leaders not only in technology, but also in climate protection. Currently, they are conducting intensive research for breakthrough technologies which would be able to reduce CO2 emissions from steel making by more than 50 per cent. The research programme called ULCOS (Ultra-Low Carbon dioxide steelmaking) is financed by the European steel industry with support from the European Union. For more information click: http://www.ulcos.org/en/index.php

A life-cycle perspective shows that the use of steel in innovative applications saves more CO2 than is emitted in the production phase. Steel’s CO2 Balance is positive. Consultants BCG and German steel institute VdEH have looked into this on behalf of the European steel industry.

Eight case studies serve as proof for steel’s potential to protect our climate. They are applications for which steel is essential and its influence on CO2 mitigation is significant. The analysis compares improvements that will be achieved from the year 2030 to the current state-of-the-art. Here are the most prominent examples:

  • Newly developed heat resistant steels are prerequisite for raising process temperatures and therefore fuel efficiency in fossil fuel power plants. Yearly CO2 savings will be 103 million tonnes from 2030.
  • Steel is indispensable for offshore windmills. More than 90 per cent of a windmill is made of steel. CO2 savings from this application are 69.7 million tonnes from 2030.
  • Modern high-strength steels reduce weight and therefore fuel consumption in cars. Depending on the component weight reduction of between 10 to 40 per cent is possible. Annual CO2 savings potential is more than 165 million tonnes from 2030.
  • Electric motors need so-called electrical steel as core material. European producers are enhancing the electromagnetic properties of their material to ensure maximum efficiency. Yearly emissions reductions projected from 2030 amount to 6.9 million tonnes.

The total CO2 mitigation potential of the eight cases analysed in the study alone is 443 million tonnes a year. This is more than six times as much as the 70 million tonnes of emissions caused by the production of the steels needed in the applications. Go here for the full study.

Case studies for EU27 result in CO<sub>2</sub> savings

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