Car­bon foot­print a big chal­lenge

CLI­MATE CHANGE Tech­no­log­i­cal im­prove­ments con­tinue to help the en­ergy in­ten­sive sec­tor re­duce green­house emis­sions, writes Re­becca Weisser

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Steel Special Report -

THE im­per­a­tive to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions is a ma­jor chal­lenge for the global steel in­dus­try. Car­bon is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent in the chem­i­cal process of mak­ing steel and green­house gas emis­sions are an un­avoid­able waste prod­uct.

The global steel in­dus­try is work­ing co­op­er­a­tively on rad­i­cal car­bon diox­ide re­duc­tion tech­nol­ogy but break­through tech­nol­ogy us­ing a re­duc­tant other than car­bon to make steel and thereby pro­duce steel with zero car­bon diox­ide emis­sions is years if not decades away.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Steel In­sti­tute, the en­ergy and green­house gas in­ten­sity of steel pro­duc­tion has de­creased by an es­ti­mated 40 per cent in the past quar­ter cen­tury through tech­no­log­i­cal im­prove­ments and in­tro­duc­tion of con­tin­u­ous cast­ing. None­the­less steel pro­duc­tion is still highly en­ergy in­ten­sive with en­ergy rep­re­sent­ing up to 40 per cent of the cost of steel pro­duc­tion.

Af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with in­dus­try, the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing a na­tional emis­sions trad­ing scheme but both Aus­tralia’s steel­mak­ers, Bluescope and OneS­teel, have ex­pressed sim­i­lar con­cerns.

In a sub­mis­sion to the Gov­ern­ment, Bluescope noted that ‘‘ any emis­sions trad­ing scheme po­ten­tially com­pro­mises the com­pet­i­tive­ness of Aus­tralia’s steel in­dus­try’’ and that ‘‘ this will likely lead to in­creas­ing im­ports of steel prod­ucts from non- car­bon con­strained coun­tries, and drive fu­ture in­vest­ment in steel­mak­ing off­shore.’’

OneS­teel noted the Aus­tralia com­peted with ‘‘ a num­ber of de­vel­op­ing economies that are sub­ject to less strin­gent green­house con­straints’’ and that ‘‘ a dis­crep­ancy in green­house gas pol­icy would place the Aus­tralian iron and steel in­dus­try at a sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tage rel­a­tive to its in­ter­na­tional com­peti­tors’’ which could lead to a mi­gra­tion of pro­duc­tion to coun­tries with no green­house gas emis­sions con­straints and an in­crease in green­house gas emis­sions per tonne of steel made.

Bluescope also wrote that if the Gov­ern­ment de­cided to pro­ceed with a stand- alone emis­sions trad­ing scheme ‘‘ then a fun­da­men­tal de­sign fea­ture must be com­pen­sa­tion by the free al­lo­ca­tion of long- term per­mits to en­ergy in­ten­sive and trade- ex­posed emit­ters such as BlueScope Steel.’’

A ma­jor ini­tia­tive of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment in de­vel­op­ing an in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to cli­mate change has been to cre­ate the Asia- Pa­cific Part­ner­ship on Clean De­vel­op­ment and Cli­mate or AP6 which brings to­gether Aus­tralia, the US, China, In­dia, Ja­pan and the Repub­lic of Korea. AP6 Part­ner coun­tries ac­count for 57 per cent of the global pro­duc­tion of crude steel and this is ex­pected to in­crease with the rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of China and In­dia.

The AP6 Steel Task Force has de­vel­oped a num­ber of ob­jec­tives to re­spond to the chal­lenge of re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions. The first is to de­velop rel­e­vant bench­mark and per­for­mance indicators for mem­ber coun­tries. The key mech­a­nism to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions will be through the de­vel­op­ment and trans­fer of best prac­tice steel tech­nolo­gies which will re­duce en­ergy us­age, air pol­lu­tion and car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from steel pro­duc­tion.

One of the most straight­for­ward ways of re­duc­ing emis­sions is through re­cy­cling. In 2005, the AP6 Steel Com­mit­tee es­ti­mated that al­most 43 per cent of global crude steel pro­duc­tion came from re­cy­cling. How­ever, the rate varies sig­nif­i­cantly be­tween coun­tries and prod­ucts.

David Ryan, Na­tional Man­ager Mar­ket­ing for the Aus­tralian Steel In­sti­tute says Aus­tralia has world class re­cy­cling rates. The Aus­tralian Steel In­sti­tute es­ti­mates that the av­er­age re­cov­ery rate for Aus­tralian scrap steel build­ing ma­te­ri­als is around 85 per cent and for struc­tural steel the re­cov­ery rate is as high as 95 per cent, which matches world’s best prac­tice.

Good de­sign can also lever­age the in­trin­sic qual­i­ties of steel re­duc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts. Andrew March­bank, the chair­man of the sus­tain­abil­ity com­mit­tee for the ASI, says the ex­ist­ing steel­work at Chi­fley Tower in Syd­ney was mod­i­fied to ac­com­mo­date a more en­ergy ef­fi­cient air­con­di­tion­ing sys­tem and to add in­ter­nal stairs to re­duce the use of lifts. Whole struc­tures can also be de­signed for re- use. For ex­am­ple, the Syd­ney Aquatic Cen­tre was de­signed to be de­mounted af­ter the Olympics and was re­lo­cated to the WIN Sta­dium in Wol­lon­gong.

An­other way of re­duc­ing the green­house gas emis­sions in steel pro­duc­tion is to re­duce the green­house gas emis­sions of en­ergy providers. Steel- mak­ing can make a con­tri­bu­tion through the cre­ation of valu­able co­prod­ucts. Bluescope Steel has al­ready be­gun work on a fea­si­bil­ity study for a co­gen­er­a­tion elec­tric­ity plant at its Port Kem­bla steel­works which would use byprod­uct gases given off by steel- mak­ing to gen­er­ate up to 120 megawatts of base load elec­tric­ity and up to 220 MW if peak­ing ca­pac­ity is added, sav­ing an es­ti­mated 800,000 tonnes of green­house gas emis­sions from en­ter­ing the at­mos­phere ev­ery year, the equiv­a­lent of tak­ing 185,000 cars off the road.

Steel co- prod­ucts can also re­duce the car­bon emis­sions of other in­dus­tries. Slags that would have been dumped in the past can be used in the ce­ment in­dus­try to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce CO emis­sions in ce­ment pro­duc­tion.

Aus­tralia is also en­gaged in the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nol­ogy to re­duce en­ergy con­sump­tion in the smelt­ing of iron ore to cre­ate hot metal and pig iron suit­able for ba­sic oxy­gen fur­nace and elec­tric arc fur­nace steel mak­ing. HIsmelt Tech­nol­ogy, a mem­ber of the Rio Tinto Group, has the po­ten­tial to rev­o­lu­tionise the pro­duc­tion of hot metal and pig iron, a key in­put in steel mak­ing, by of­fer­ing lower op­er­at­ing costs, lower cap­i­tal costs and lower en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

‘‘ We have a vi­sion of 100 HIsmelt plants over the next 15 to 20 years,’’ Stephan We­ber, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of HIsmelt says. ‘‘ What is re­ally ex­cit­ing is that HIsmelt can be com­bined with geose­ques­tra­tion to re­duce car­bon emis­sions to 0.1 tonnes of CO per tonne of hot metal, a re­ally dra­matic re­duc­tion.’’ The global av­er­age is 2.35 tonnes of CO per tonne of hot metal.

Fire and smoke: En­ergy rep­re­sents up to 40 per cent of the cost of steel pro­duc­tion

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