Quality and Sustainability in Steel

George Cooper

Quality and Sustainability in Steel

Steel is not only an essential material for economic development but also plays a crucial role in global sustainability initiatives. However, the steel industry is also one of the most energy-intensive sectors, contributing to approximately 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

As we strive towards decarbonization goals and improved environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics, steelmakers are focusing on reducing their environmental impact and embracing clean technologies. By adopting these technologies, increasing the production of sustainable steel, improving ESG performance, embracing digitization, and collaborating with stakeholders, we aim to steer the steel industry towards a more sustainable future.

Clean technologies, such as carbon capture, innovations in product mix, hydrogen usage, and alternative smelting reduction processes, offer promising solutions to reduce carbon emissions. Increasing the production of sustainable steel can meet the growing demand for low-carbon supplies, particularly from sectors like automotive. By improving ESG performance, steelmakers not only comply with regulations but also enhance resource management and reduce operational risks. Digitization enables us to optimize energy consumption, minimize waste, control emissions, and provide reliable data for assessing the carbon impact of steel value chains. Lastly, collaboration with stakeholders accelerates the transition to improve output quality and develop feasible solutions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Steel is a vital material for economic development and global sustainability initiatives.
  • The steel industry is one of the most energy-intensive sectors and contributes to approximately 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
  • In order to align with decarbonization goals and improve ESG metrics, steelmakers are adopting clean technologies and increasing the production of sustainable steel.
  • Improving ESG performance not only complies with regulations but also enhances resource management and reduces operational risk.
  • Digitization optimizes energy consumption, minimizes waste, controls emissions, and provides reliable data for assessing the carbon impact of steel value chains.
  • Collaboration with stakeholders accelerates the transition to improve output quality and develop feasible solutions.

The Sustainability of Steel Production

Steel is considered one of the most sustainable materials due to its recyclability and durability. It is 100% recyclable, allowing it to be reused indefinitely without any loss of quality. The steel industry has made significant progress in reducing its environmental impact over the years.

Producing a ton of steel today requires less than half the energy and results in a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 40 years ago. This reduction in energy intensity and carbon intensity is a result of technological advancements and the industry’s commitment to sustainability.

The steel industry’s dedication to the circular economy is evident through its practice of recycling decommissioned bridges and buildings, turning them into steel again and again. This recycling process minimizes waste and conserves resources, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The American steel industry is particularly focused on decarbonization and has made public commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or intensity. By adopting cleaner production methods and embracing sustainable practices, the industry aims to continue its efforts in reducing its carbon footprint.

One of the key aspects of sustainable steel production is the use of electric arc furnaces for producing structural steel. Compared to traditional steelmaking methods, electric arc furnaces have significantly lower carbon emissions. This shift towards cleaner and more energy-efficient processes helps to further reduce the industry’s environmental impact.

Steel’s sustainability contributions extend beyond its environmental impact. The steel industry plays a crucial role in driving the economy, supporting infrastructure development, and ensuring national security. Its recyclability and durability make it an essential material for a wide range of applications, from construction to transportation.

Steel Production Statistics

Year Energy Intensity (MWh/ton) Greenhouse Gas Emissions (kg CO2/ton)
1980 20 1,000
2020 10 500
2040 (Projected) 5 250

Table: Steel production statistics showcasing the reduction in energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions over the years and projected figures for 2040.

The Role of Steel in Advancing Environmental Objectives

Steel’s contributions to environmental sustainability go beyond reducing emissions and energy intensity. As an industry, we are actively involved in environmental stewardship, achieving substantial reductions in energy and greenhouse gas intensity since 1990.

To further our commitment, we, as the American steel industry, have made significant pledges to reduce carbon emissions through various initiatives. Our mills are diligently working to develop accurate industry-wide environmental product declarations (EPDs) that consider the multiple environmental impacts related to the manufacture of steel. These EPDs provide a comprehensive picture of steel’s environmental performance and go above and beyond other materials in terms of coverage.

Another key area where steel supports environmental objectives is the promotion of renewable energy. For instance, Gerdau, one of the leading players in the steel industry, has exemplified this commitment by launching an impressive 80-megawatt solar farm.

Additionally, the structural steel industry plays a vital role in sustainable construction practices. Our focus is on ensuring the use of materials with minimal environmental impact in order to contribute to the circular economy. The versatility and recyclability of steel make it an essential part of green building efforts, as we strive to create a more sustainable future through durability, performance, and innovation.

George Cooper