Nippon Steel to Speed up Decarbonisation of Steel Making
World’s No 3 steelmaker Nippon Steel will boost research and development spending to speed decarbonisation in steelmaking. Nippon Steel Executive Vice President Mr Katsuhiro Miyamoto told Reuters in an interview “Nippon Steel will step up development of hydrogen use in iron ore reduction, carbon capture and storage technology, and ways to make high end steel in electric furnaces. We will input considerable resource into R&D on decarbonisation technology. The government, however, will need to develop a strategy to provide cheap carbon free electricity. Further details will be laid out in March.”
Japanese steelmakers account for 14% of Japan’s carbon emissions. Nippon Steel and peers have been working together to develop iron ore reduction technology that uses hydrogen in blast furnaces to cut CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030. But Japan’s pledge in October to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 has forced the Japanese steel industry to look for ways to accelerate its shift towards carbon-free steel.
The Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015 requires reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 to 2070. For most steelmakers, steel is inherently green but energy intensive steel industry accounts for 7-9% of global carbon dioxide emission. Calls are intensifying to reduce its emissions and become completely climate neutral in just a few decades ie by 2050. Is it possible, or is the steel industry an oil tanker, too slow and too large to change course in time as sector needs huge investment to enable it to transition?
Steel is one of the economic sectors that are the hardest to decarbonize, due to tough global competition, the dependence of the production process on carbon, and the need for new breakthrough technologies with high abatement cost and long investment cycles. An Innovative and climate-neutral steel comes with higher production cost compared to business as usual and faces several other systemic barriers such as a lack of infrastructure, weak trust in long-term climate policy, technical uncertainties, and immature market knowledge. The prescribed climate policy solution for reducing emissions has been the pricing of carbon on a free carbon market but carbon pricing alone cannot alleviate all of these disadvantages.
The blast furnace is the largest emission source in the steel value chain and further efficiency potentials are small. Net-zero emissions means the steel industry must replace current primary production processes, namely the blast furnace route, with low or preferably zero emission production processes. Set of technologies have been identified and a variety of research projects aims to develop these breakthrough technologies. Most of these projects follow one of two distinct strategies either using renewable fuels hydrogen, electricity, biomass or end-of-pipe capturing of CO2.
Keeping the blast furnace means that in order to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions CCS must be installed and a part of the coal injection needs to be done with biogenic carbon with a net-zero carbon footprint BF CCS/CCU; BF Bio, BF BioCCS. In theory it is possible to reach zero emission with a blast furnace by using both biomasses that can replace up to 40% of coal use and complementing this with CCS on the major point sources. Instead of avoiding emitting CO2 to the air altogether, CO2 can be captured and used as a feedstock for further processing into chemicals thus replacing fossil feedstock through Carbon2Chem, Steelanol, FresMe, Carbon4PUR etc.
A zero emission option for the direct reduction plant is to use renewable hydrogen. Direct reduction with natural gas complemented with an EAF has a substantially smaller carbon footprint compared to current blast furnaces. Producing secondary steel from scrap in an EAF is substantially less carbon intensive if the indirect emission from the electricity is excluded and if natural gas is replaced with a renewable heat source.
BF - Emission intensity 1682, Relative emissions vs BF 100%
BF CCU - Emission intensity 673-1682, Relative emissions 40-100%
BF CCS - Emission intensity 673, Relative emissions 40%
BF Bio - Emission intensity 1009, Relative emissions 60%
BF BioCCS - Emission intensity <100, Relative emissions <6%
NG-DRI - Emission intensity 1020, Relative emissions 61%
EAF without fossil fuels - Emission intensity <100, Relative emissions <6%
H-DRI - Emission intensity <100, Relative emissions <6%
Electrowinning - Emission intensity <100, Relative emissions <6%
NG-DRI Natural Gas Direct Reduction
H-DRI Hydrogen Direct Reduction
CCS Carbon Capture & Storage
CCU Carbon Capture & Utilization