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Help us make green steel, say UK producers

UK steel producers have called for a renewed focus on positive policies to help them meet rigorous targets for net zero and lower emissions.

Their trade association, UK Steel, has published ‘Net Zero Steel: A Vision for the Future of UK Steel Production’, to demonstrate the potential opportunity. Steel production accounts for 15% of UK emissions.

The report says that net zero steel production will increase electricity use but industrial electricity prices are a key barrier with steelmakers in the UK paying almost 60% more than their European counterparts. It notes that UK demand for steel is expected to grow by 2030, presenting an opportunity to reindustrialise and create green jobs. But it warns that a market for net zero steel must be supported by restrictions insuring imported, high-emission steel does not undermine domestic investment.

‘Globally, no steel sector has yet decarbonised – the UK can secure a tremendous first-mover advantage,’ it concludes. The Government has targeted a 95% emission reduction from steelmaking by 2050, while the UK’s official watchdog, the Climate Change Committee, wants emissions from ore-based steelmaking be near zero by 2035.

Green jobs

UK Steel dg Gareth Stace says: ‘Delivering net zero in this strategic sector is a generational challenge which will need far-sighted support from Government and a positive policy environment to achieve. As we look ahead to a change in Government, it is essential that the current focus on our sector is not dropped.

‘No steel sector or steel company in the world has yet successfully decarbonised. If we accomplish this, we will transform almost 35 000 steel jobs into green jobs.’ Stace points out there is a range of technologies to decarbonise, including electrified steelmaking, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen.

‘We export much of our scrap steel only to reimport it, meaning there is fertile ground for electric arc steelmaking. Our location near the North Sea means we are perfectly placed to harness cost-effective carbon capture and storage steelmaking. In the future, hydrogen-based steelmaking may also become more attractive.’

Go for scrap

A second report, ‘Building the Future – a faster route clean steel’, was published a day earlier by the cross-party UK environmental thinktank, the Green Alliance. It identifies how ‘huge and rapid emissions cuts’ are possible by shifting more steel production towards electric arc furnaces using steel scrap.

‘Hydrogen-based processes, aided by electrification, can make higher quality but lower carbon virgin steel where it is still needed for some uses. Moving swiftly to clean steel production will safeguard the industry, bring down emissions and create good jobs.’

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