The steel industry has the potential to be a sustainable leader in the future. Unlike many other building materials, steel is completely recyclable and does not degrade in quality when remade into other material. Still, there are many challenges that the industry still faces that must be addressed before it becomes completely sustainable. However, new and emerging technologies are pathing the way for a cleaner future for steel.
Steel is a highly sustainable material, as it can be recycled indefinitely, however, there are still challenges in the production of steel that need to be met before a fully sustainable future is met. Let’s take a look at some of these challenges and the technologies that may be able to assist in creating a greener future for steel.
Challenges to Sustainability
Even though the steel industry has made huge grounds in improving sustainability, there are many challenges that still lie ahead that must be addressed to achieve a sustainable future.
Although steel is a highly sustainable material, the forging of iron and steel in itself is a process that demands a lot of energy, which in turn produces millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. The majority of these emissions are created while producing iron in a blast furnace using coal and coke as a reducing agent.
Another challenge to sustainability is the large amounts of the waste material called slag, that is made during the steelmaking process. A factory that produces a million tonnes of steel a year generally can expect to produce 300,000 tonnes of slag, and across the world, this adds up to hundreds of millions of tonnes a year. The issue with this bi-product is that it takes water to clear out of the furnace, resulting in a high amount of water usage worldwide.
Solutions in Technology
Despite these challenges to sustainability, the global steel industry is actively searching for new uses for technology to make the production of steel more efficient and to reduce water use, carbon emissions and waste. Some new technologies that are showing promise in creating a sustainable future in the steel industry include:
• Replacing the use of coke and coal with charcoal. ‘Sustainable biochar’ can be used for numerous applications in steelmaking that does not significantly modify the standard process and significantly reduces carbon emissions.
• A new ‘dry’ method of granulating slag, which can capture heat to be used for preheating, steam and electricity generation. This method also reduces the amount of water that needs to be used compared to ‘wet’ granulation methods.
• Molten Oxide Electrolysis has also given the steel industry hope in a carbon-free future. This method involves exposing oxidised carbon to an electrified charge, producing the bi-products of steel and oxygen.
• The advent of technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT), new robotics technologies, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and additive manufacturing all promise to streamline the supply and manufacturing process across the steel industry.
Progress in Sustainability
In recent years the steel industry has put a greater emphasis on innovation, collaboration and communication in order to embrace more efficient and sustainable practices throughout the supply chain. Large efforts have been made to reduce the impact of environmental pollution within the last few decades, in fact, to produce one tonne of steel today, it takes 40% of the energy that was required in 1960.
Companies must now meet higher standards than they once did and industrial impacts such as waste management, energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions are now more highly regulated than they have ever been. These developments point towards a clean sustainable future for the steel industry.
If you’d like more information about the Steel Industry or if you need quality steel that is fabricated to suit your unique needs, contact Steel Fabrication Services today.
Our team of expert structural steel fabricators have the experience and knowledge to answer any of your questions and will ensure that you find the best solution to suit your needs. To contact us today, simply call, fax or email for information or a steel fabrication quote, or drop by our Brookvale location.