While Australia’s booming steel industry continues to accelerate into the future, there’s growing interest in reducing the industry’s carbon footprint while growing jobs. Is there a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create new jobs and work towards a carbon neutral tomorrow? There’s growing evidence to say it’s possible.
A BIG COUNTRY
In a report from the Grattan Institute, there’s over four million square kilometres of available space that could be used for “good coexisting wind and solar”.
“Australia’s abundant solar and wind resources are well suited to making hydrogen, the key energy input to making green steel from renewable energy,” the Grattan Institute report says.
“And Australia’s lower-cost green hydrogen will make it a better place to produce green steel than places like Japan or Indonesia.”
Mixing solar and wind power solutions provides a dependable source of energy, because if it isn’t sunny then it’s likely to be windy outside. Not only will this be a comparatively cheap source of local energy, excess energy can be exported overseas via underwater cables for extra revenue.
Renewable power can be used to manufacture local commodities, of which steel is the prime example. Manufacturing “green steel” in Australia lowers our reliance on overseas imports, and provides a new opportunity for local businesses to export a range of products.
HYDROGEN POWERED STEEL PRODUCTION
Using Hydrogen as an energy source is a relatively new concept, but the science behind is well proven over the ages. If you use renewable energy sources to run an electric current through water to separate the oxygen and hydrogen molecules, you can create “green” hydrogen. So, what do you do with this? Make more green steel, of course.
While Australia makes 28% of the world’s iron ore, it only generates 0.3% of the world’s steel supply. The other element needed to make steel currently is metallurgical coal, which powers the blast furnaces that transform iron ore into steel. If those furnaces are powered by Hydrogen, we could make steel with nearly zero emissions. The only byproduct of hydrogen power is water, which can be safely used elsewhere.
The technology behind this plan has already been tested and proven in Sweden and Germany, with new hydrogen-powered blast furnaces being tested with great results. Australia can be the next green steel powerhouse if it changes just one element of the process.
Analysts predict that transitioning to this new landscape will create almost 50,000 new jobs in the industry, and the additional benefit of helping us reach climate change targets is of course important. There’s an exciting green future ahead for the steel industry if it chooses to get behind it.
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