The EU’s Green Deal goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050 is putting enormous pressure on the Continent’s steelmakers.
Those unable to swiftly decarbonize risk getting swallowed by rivals. Laggards will also face competition from Asian steelmakers, which are aggressively promising to slash their greenhouse gas emissions.
Rethinking the technology Europe uses to make steel, and encouraging the use of more scrap steel instead of making the virgin product, can have big impacts on the industry’s carbon footprint.
Out of 160 million tons of crude steel produced in the EU in 2019, only about 40 percent came out of electric arc furnaces, according to the most recent statistics from industry group Eurofer. The rest was made in old-school blast furnaces, most of which run on coking coal — a big part of why global steel production generates between 7 percent and 9 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.
While the most efficient blast furnace process produces 1.9 tons of CO2 per ton of steel, melting down 100 percent scrap in an electric arc furnace produces 0.4 tons of CO2 per ton of steel — dropping to 0.1 tons of CO2 if the electricity is carbon-free, according to a sectoral study by the industry-led Energy Transitions Commission.