Although the move to a greener economy may impose significant costs on steelmakers, it is important to also note the opportunities. Steel companies who develop products for future markets may be more sustainable than those who fail to inovate.
SBB 7 April The global market for “cleantech” products will double between now and 2020 to over $1,000bn, to become the steel industry’s biggest single demand sector, Toni Hemminki, Rautaruukki’s vice president for energy and environment, said at Steel Business Briefing’s Green Steel Strategies summit in Brussels on 5 April.
Cleantech applications are those that reduce the environmental impact of economic activity. ”We expect cleantech [applications] to represent 8% of global GDP in 2020,” he said. In particular, he sees important new uses of steel in wind energy generation, hydro power production, bio-energy harvesting, combustion and light weighting.
“The wind market in particular is growing, and underscores how steel is an important means to cutting carbon emissions”, he added. High strength steels, for example in wind tower lattices, can be used to provide specific energy efficiency solutions for Ruukki’s customers.
More generally, Rautaruukki is studying green steel strategies tailored to providing different solutions to various clients and sectors. One focus is improving the strength of plate because using a light-weight, high-strength steel increases payload, saves energy and reduces CO2, Hemminki noted.
Transparency on CO2 emissions is positive: all steel producers should be obliged to publish these and similar numbers by steel making location/operation. It would make the companies themselves more aware of the results of their activities. Its true that not a lot can be done in terms of emissions reductions in the short term, but some improvements in efficiency can be made. In addition, companies can estimate the impact of their products in terms of life cycle contributions, as Rautaruukki has done.
SBB 15 March Rautaruukki tells Steel Business Briefing that the small increase in the average tonnage of CO2 emitted per tonne of crude steel in 2009, compared with 2008, was due to the relatively low capacity utilisation rate in the year.
This meant that the Finnish company’s molten iron was produced less efficiently last year. Indeed it was below the minimum level necessary to ensure the efficient operation of the reduction process in the blast furnace, SBB was told.
According to figures in Rautaruukki’s annual report for 2009, the company produced 3.5m tonnes of CO2 and 1.9m t of crude steel in 2009. This gives an average of 1.85 t of CO2/tonne of crude steel, up from 1.78 t of CO2/t steel in 2008. The company’s goal is to improve the energy efficiency of production by 9% between 2005 and 2016.
Meanwhile, looking at the impact of Rautaruukki products as measured through their life cycle, the company says it reduced global CO2 emissions by 610,000 t. It did this by recycling steel and various mineral products. “Depending on the grade of steel being made, 20-30% of recycled steel was used in steel making,” it comments.
This cut in emissions reflects the specific range of products that Rautaruukki is currently producing. It highlights specialties for the construction and renewable energy sectors.