Call to Action - Industry

Steel Industry

According to the IPCC, the steel industry is responsible for about 3-4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. When one ton of steel is manufactured, an average of about 1.7 tonnes of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. The nine countries that produce the most steel are responsible for over 90% of these emissions. They are the U.S., China, Russia, India, the EU-27*, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and Ukraine. Reducing the CO2 emissions of this sector is imperative because as countries develop, they will need more steel. Steel production has risen sharply since the 1950s, where the world made only 200 million metric tonnes(MMT) of steel per year. In 2006, 1,239.5 MMT was produced. Based on the average value of 1.7 tonnes CO2 released per tonne of steel produced (World Steel Association, n.d.), we can assume that the steel industry released 2,106 million metric tonnes of CO2 into the air during the year 2006.

Only one of the main steelmaking methods, the primary blast furnace, is responsible for ninety percent of worldwide steel industry emissions. It is used for about 65% of all steelmaking. China's overwhelming growth has caused it to become the emitter of 51% of the steel industry's carbon dioxide. The Chinese steel industry mainly uses the blast furnace method. Its use of older technology prone to releasing CO2 is another factor that is contributing to its high emissions rate. (Mines and Communities, 2007)

Blast Furnaces

Blast furnaces are huge, bottle-shaped machines about the size of a 27-story skyscraper that convert raw iron ore into molten iron so it can be used later to produce steel. They are lined with special refractory bricks that can withstand very high temperatures. First, raw iron ore is fed into the furnace by a conveyor belt along with coke (Bluescope Steel, n.d.) and limestone. (ATSI Engineering, n.d.) Coke is a form of coal that has been baked in an oven in order to carbonize it. (Wva-USA, n.d.) Bituminous coal is heated at high temperatures to drive off unwanted compounds until only solid carbon is obtained. This solid carbon is referred to as coke. (World Bank Group, 1998) Inside the furnace, carbon monoxide reduces iron oxide into raw iron. (Bluescope Steel, n.d.) Carbon dioxide is one of the products of this reaction. (ATSI Engineering, n.d.)


Alternate Methods:

The blast furnace method has proven to be a large emitter of CO2, so an alternate method of steel making should eventually be used to replace it. One possible effective replacement is the electric arc furnace method which is responsible for about 10% of global steel industry emissions. (Mines and Communities, 2007) Nitric oxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide are emitted, but this process requires less energy. It does not require as much energy as the blast furnace process because ore is not being smelted.