The process of making steel has historically resulted in very high emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Every tonne of steel produces 1.8 tonnes of CO2, representing 9% of worldwide green-house gas emissions.
The good news is that over the years, we have made a lot of progress when it comes to the development and sustainability of material science. For example, if the Eiffel Tower was built today, it would only require 25% of the steel used for its original construction back in 1887.
We need to continue developing better ways to produce important metals such as steel for wear resistant plates and to better manage the materials that already exist today.
Traditional Way of Making Steel
The traditional way to make steel is to pack coking coal and iron ore in a furnace and blast the mixture with air heated to more than 1,200°C. At this temperature, the carbon in the coke reacts with oxygen to produce carbon monoxide (CO), which then reacts with the oxygen in the ore, liberating the iron in a process called reduction.
Heat from the reaction pushes temperatures to 1,538°C and the resulting liquid iron/metal flows out the bottom of the furnace. However, the damage is done when the CO2 and other gases, including nitrogen, are vented into the air.
How Can the Steelmaking Process Change?
The quickest way to reduce CO2 emissions is to use scrap steel instead of iron ore and coke. Steel is 100% recyclable and can be reused repeatedly to create new products in a closed material loop. Recycled steel maintains the inherent properties of its original steel and around three-quarters of all steel products ever made are still in use today.
However, the challenge with recycling steel is that there is not enough scrap steel to meet the world demand. This is why new methods are being developed and most of them involve replacing coking coal.
One way to do this is to eliminate CO2 from the process. The idea is to replace coking coal traditionally needed for ore-based steel making with green hydrogen produced from fossil electricity and to reduce the ore in a way that creates water rather than CO2.
Unfortunately, in some cases the infrastructure required to make, transport, and store hydrogen does not exist and there are competing demands for gas from other industries, like automotive.
Another promising idea is to completely eliminate coke from the process by pumping CO directly into the blast furnace. The gas comes from capturing the CO2 produced in the furnace and recycling it by splitting it into CO and oxygen.
The oxygen can then be used in a second part of the steel making process in which gas is blown through molten iron in a second furnace to burn off part of the carbon and arrive at the optimum ratio of iron to carbon to create the desired grade of steel.
The producers and manufacturers of steel also have a responsibility to contribute to sustainability. Ensuring long-term sustainability is not just about managing and reusing existing steel materials around the world, but also changing the actual steelmaking process to produce a carbon footprint of zero.
The Titus Steel Difference
Titus Steel is working with its major steel suppliers to encourage and reduce the carbon footprint of its wear resistant plates and steels. In the near future, all of Titus Steels’ wear steels, including ENDURA, ENDURA Dual, Titus Manganese, AR 500 and AR 600, will be produced with an output of zero CO2 emissions in an effort to help save our planet. Contact Titus Steel to learn more about our process.