Welcome to part two in our series on Australian steel and its opportunity to create a sustainable world. In the last post, we took a glance at the Australian steel industry the abundance of steel around the world and Australia’s role in making old materials new again. Now we’ll look at the steel technologies and processes being adopted in the industry to reduce waste.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
As mentioned before, creating steel is a combination of chemical reactions, firstly beginning with Iron Oxide and Carbon (in the form of metallurgical coke) in a blast furnace, before being refined in a Basic Oxygen Steelmaking furnace. The final process sees scrap steel and the other elements combined, with oxygen added to reduce the carbon level to the steel grade (or specification), which due to the high energy generates carbon dioxide. An excess of carbon dioxide is not ideal for the planet or the life on it, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy has become a worldwide endeavour for the steel industry to help reduce overall business costs and improve environmental performance.
The technologies and processes available
Over the past 40 years, the industry has developed a wide range of energy saving technologies including continuous casting, the basic oxygen steelmaking process and by adjusting electric arc steelmaking to produce flat rolled steel. All of these processes are used industry-wide from Australia steel fabricators to Australian steel manufacturers and distributors.
Australia is also responsible for contributing research to emerging technologies such as the direct casting of steel strip which eliminates the need for a high-energy hot strip mill. While not used as of yet in Australia, this method is proving successful in the United States.
Wisely using by-products
Transforming waste into valuable byproducts is another way we can push sustainability in a new and exciting direction.
According to the Australian Steel Institute, approximately 80% of Australia’s 1.6 million tonnes of blast furnace slag is used as a cement substitute, while 60% of road bases are now formed from steelmaking slag.
Steel has proven itself time and time again of its usefulness in architectural design and everyday products. It’s the one material that not only has a long lifespan in its original intention (whether car, building, or appliance) and can live many lives through recycling.
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