The steel industry is among the three biggest producers of carbon dioxide in the world. With the Paris Agreement in 2015, steel companies are increasingly discussing how to reduce the carbon footprint of steel. Decarbonisation of steel companies is an important goal to achieve carbon neutrality.
Reducing the carbon footprint of steel plants in India
Many technologies are being tested around the globe while some are still in the stages of development. Let us have look at how to reduce the carbon footprint of steel production using technologies prevalent today:
- Hydrogen as a reducing agent
Hydrogen Breakthrough Iron making Technology (HYBRIT) is a new technology that uses hydrogen as a reducing agent for iron ore reduction. HYBRIT aims is to minimise carbon dioxide emissions by replacing coal with hydrogen in the steel-making process.
This technology is a joint venture between Swedish companies, LKAB (The largest producer of iron ore in Europe), SSAB (global leader in high-strength steel), and Vattenfall (one of the largest electricity producers in Europe).
- Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
Many companies are experimenting with carbon capture technology. This is how the technology works. Carbon dioxide that is emitted by the blast furnace during steel production is separated from other gases. The carbon dioxide is then compressed and transported via pipelines, road transport or ships to a site for storage.
The carbon dioxide transported is injected into rock formations deep underground for permanent storage. Storage sites for carbon emissions include saline aquifers or depleted oil and gas reservoirs, which typically need to be 1km or more under the ground.
- Biomass as a reducing agent
Biomass is organic matter derived from plants and animals. It has many applications, inlcuding heating, cooking, making briquettes, electricity generation, etc. Coke that is mixed with iron during the production process of steel can be partially substituted with biomass-based char, obtained by pyrolysis of biomass.
Different types of biomass are being tried as reducing agents for iron ore including tea waste, sugarcane bagasse, corn cob, groundnut shell, etc. Since India has a large repository of biomass resulting from large scale agriculture in the country, biomass is a sustainable and cheap resource that can be utilised for steel production that will reduce carbon emissions.
According to a report from McKinsey, “Global steel industry may find approximately 14% of steel companies’ potential value is at risk if they are unable to decrease their environmental impact.” India is also a part of the Paris Agreement following which the government put forth a set of long-term goals to cut carbon emissions and adapt to climate impacts.
The government has pledged that it will reduce the emissions intensity of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 45% by 2030. This is a measure of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from each economic activity. Steel companies being one of the top sources of GHG emissions in India will soon be forced to reduce their emissions to contribute to the goal.
Therefore, it is important for Indian steel companies to start using decarbonisation technologies. This is already becoming an important selling point for international customers.