Steel manufacturing is an important part of our modern world. Imagine a world without steel. How would our buildings look? Same with our cars, ships, etc.  

As you can imagine, construction gets the lion share of steel production with a whopping 52 percent. This is followed by the production of mechanical equipment (16 percent), automotive manufacturing (12 percent), and the making of metal products (10 percent). 

Given its place in the global market, steel makers are always on the lookout for ways to produce more steel at less costs and risks. Unfortunately, the production of steel produces a large amount of pollution. In fact, according to the non-profit Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), between 7 to 9 percent of the world’s carbon emissions is from steel production. Countries and companies interested in lowering the emission rate in the rising “green steel” industry are eyeing the following three technologies.

Reduce Emission by Hydrogen

Steel is produced by heating up raw iron and scrap metal in a furnace and “reducing it” by stripping oxygen from the iron. Carbon-heavy coal or coke, which needs to be carefully monitored by an industrial panel PC, is involved in the process. Unsurprisingly, a byproduct of this process is carbon dioxide (CO2).

One technology replaces that coke with hydrogen instead. The benefit is immediate since this process emits water vapor as a waste product instead of CO2. The downside is that it takes an immense amount of energy to extract the necessary hydrogen from water. This is usually done via oil, gas, or coal-burning power plants which also release large amounts of carbon into the air.

Two European-based partnerships are currently testing this hydrogen steel making technology. The first, H2 Green Steel, is being developed by sustainable energy promoter EIT InnoEnergy, investor Vargas Holdings, and commercial truck manufacturer Scania. The first plant is planned to go live in 2024 and is expected to produce five million metric tons of green steel. Two other plants are planned, all based in Sweden.

The second partnership is between Swedish metal-maker SSAB, utility company Vattenfall, and the mining company LKAB. It is called the HYBRIT project. States SSAB officials: “The goal is to deliver fossil-free steel to the market and demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale as early as 2026.” 

The plants from both partnerships use renewable energy like hydropower to create the hydrogen for green steel making.

Reduce Emission by Electricity

In 2013, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released news of a radically new method of green steelmaking. Called molten oxide electrolysis (MOE), this method uses electricity to directly separate oxygen from the iron ore and scrap metal. The emission released in this case is oxygen instead of CO2.

It’s not just the lack of carbon emission that makes this method more green. It’s also simpler. Steel production not only involves the blast furnace and coke, but a coke plant to produce the coke from coal, and a sintering plant to convert released iron dust into more products. All these release some form of emission. And MOE supporters say using hydrogen maintains that complexity which could be tracked by an industrial tablet. As pointed out by Adam Rauwerdink, vice president of business development at Boston Metal, which looks to bring MOE to market: “If you’re going to do hydrogen for steel production, you’re ultimately focused on [using] green hydrogen. Which is using electricity to do electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen. So there’s electrolysis involved. You’re just adding extra steps because then you’re taking that hydrogen, using that to make a sponge iron and then remelting that to a similar product that we’re producing. We think we are simplifying the process.”

Like the hydrogen steel-making process, MOE relies on electrical energy from carbon-emitting oil, gas, and coal power plants. Thus Boston Metal is testing the technology in countries with numerous and inexpensive renewable resources like Australia, Canada, and much of Europe. 

Reduce Emission by Recovering Heat

The Ori Martin steel manufacturing plant takes a different approach in reducing carbon emission. Instead of focusing on its own emissions, it also focuses on the prevention of others from emitting them, namely homes. 

The Italy-based plant uses a heat recovery system and special Organic Rankine Cycle turbines to capture waste heat from its processes and convert it into electricity. While some of that electricity is channeled back into the plant, a lot goes into the local power grid. During winter months, the plant can provide enough power to heat up to 2,000 households; in summer, up to 700. It’s calculated this system prevents around 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year from being released by both the plant and those households. 

Closing Thoughts 

Steelmaking is an integral part of what makes the modern world, and both countries and companies are interested in how to make “green steel” to reduce global warming. Three methods, which involve the use of hydrogen, electricity, and waste heat, are being explored. 

Contact an expert at Cybernet if you’re interested in learning more about these methods and why industrial grade PCs are best used in them. 

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