Steel’s contribution to a low carbon future

Steel is heavily embedded in our infrastructure and construction, while it is also proving to be a solid investment for building climate resilient cities and coastlines. With climate on the minds of many Australians, we look to governments and corporations to take the lead on securing a renewable, sustainable Earth. In response to the global climate conversation, Worldsteel has released a position paper on steel’s contribution to a low carbon future.

Worldsteel are adamant on their position: Partnerships between government, the steel industry and stakeholders are fundamental to delivering a solution on lowering CO2 emissions, consumption of scarce resources and disposal of waste.

Steel in the circular economy

The circular economy is crucial to triple the bottom line of sustainability. The current linear model sees products that are manufactured from raw materials, used and then discarded, whereas the circular economy encourages models or parts that are repaired, re-used, returned and recycled.

Recycling, use of co-products and energy efficiency

It makes sense for steel, as it’s one of the rare materials that can be melted down and reused without losing its integrity or performance. Recycling can be limited, however, due to the long shelf life for steel used in structures such as bridges and buildings. Yet, up to 50% of scrap generated, when steel products are transformed into consumer goods, could be enforced through policies which emphasise recyclability and design for dismantling.

Another topic which doesn’t get enough attention in the steel industry is the use of by-products. We’ve spoken before about how slag can help to change the world through its capture of carbon in the atmosphere, as well as its use in our roads, which subsequently reduces the CO2 emissions in the cement industry.

The steel industry has done a commendable job in reducing its energy consumption per tonne of steel produced – around 61% over the course of 50 years – and is making better strides in capturing waste energies. Worldsteel believes there is limited room for improvement in energy efficiency at the current time based on the existing technologies available. A recent study showed that the average energy intensity for steel production is 20 GJ/t crude steel with a potential improvement of 15-20%.

Today, there are number of breakthrough technologies in the demonstration phase, that if proven successful will contribute to a more sustainable steel industry. Some of the projects are looking at hydrogen as a reducing agent, carbon capture and storage or utilisation, biomass as a reducing agent and electrolysis to reduce iron ore using electricity.

How ShapeCUT is contributing to a low carbon future

ShapeCUT are committed to making our steel cutting facility as green and efficient as possible. Our Brisbane workshop is the largest in the southern hemisphere and is completely powered by solar, drastically reducing our carbon footprint. We also prioritise our workers’ health by positioning dust and air filtration systems in the workspace that collect pollutants, transforming them into recyclable material and improving air quality at the same time.

As the world takes on the challenges of being more environmentally conscious, we are proud that ShapeCUT is on the forefront of these rapid technological changes.