Steel use must fall, but opportunities exist: Wellmet


SBB 24 April In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to prevent catastrophic climate change the global use of steel must fall, notes Julian Allwood, group leader of the Wellmet2050 project at Cambridge University. However, there are opportunities for steelmakers to add value and potentially increase margins by producing less steel, he argues.

The global industry has almost reached the maximum amount of blast furnace capacity it will ever need, Allwood says. Increasing scrap supply should mean that new capacity will be primarily EAF-based.

However, steelmakers should also be producing less steel by making their products more material-efficient. Many steel products, such as sections, are around one third heavier than they need to be to fulfill their roles and much auto sheet contains around twice as much steel as carmakers will use, Allwood says.

By working with their customers steelmakers can help to find ways of providing exactly the same products with significantly less steel, and therefore significantly less raw material, labour and other costs. Producing steel with a specific end-use in mind could also increase efficiency and create low-cost premium products for steelmakers to profit from.

Unfortunately economies of scale are working to prevent this. Producing large quantities of commodity products to minimize labour costs currently makes economic sense but is not environmentally sustainable. Meanwhile, making more labour-intensive but tailored products for end users is only economical if a significant premium is being paid for the product.

Perhaps materials should be more highly valued by society and priced higher, one ArcelorMittal executive quipped at Platts SBB’s Green Steel conference in Berlin.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Are there many companies moving more towards this labor-intensive, but more efficient practice?

    Reply

  2. Hopefully we will slowly see a transition from mass produced steel to more tailored steel for specific purposes, like you mentioned. It seems all too often that the environmentally conscious way of manufacturing is more expensive. It will be interesting to watch to see if we do see a shift towards more production focused on a specific end-use!

    Reply

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