UK’s dying steel industry in dire need of clean tech

Decarbonisation of the steel industry accounts for 14% of Britain's industrial emissions. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty

Decarbonisation of the steel industry accounts for 14% of Britain’s industrial emissions. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty

Britain’s dying steel industry is in dire need of clean technologies to help it meet net zero emissions by 2050, a new report published on Wednesday said.

The environmental audit committee (EAC) warned steel production could be jeopardised as government initiatives to decarbonisation the industry “lacks ambition” compared to other countries.

The steel industry currently accounts for 14% of Britain’s industrial emissions.

The EAC held an inquiry to examine the opportunities within the sector associated with new technologies, and the challenges that lay ahead for them.

According to the committee, steel sector representatives “expressed concern” that unless the government was “forthcoming with a clear strategy supported by funding” to drive progress in clean steel tech, the UK could be forced to rely more on steel imports in the future.

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EAC members also heard that direct reduced iron and electric arc furnace methods could allow the industry to move away from the use of coking coal for steelmaking.

This would support the sector to decarbonise well before 2050. British Steel has set out plans to convert an existing blast furnace to an electric arc furnace by 2035 in a bid to reduce emissions.

Metallurgical coal, also known as coking coal, is used to create coke, one of the key components used for steelmaking.

The committee called on the UK government to set out a strategy to encourage more research and development in emerging decarbonised technologies.

EAC chairman, Philip Dunne MP, said: “From cars to building frames, ships to wind turbines, we rely heavily on steel. But steel production is highly energy-intensive and a significant emitter.

“Our Committee heard that the steel sector has the opportunity to move away from a heavy emitter towards championing clean tech as it adjusts towards eventually becoming a low carbon industry. This is exactly the transition we must be focussing on as the net zero deadline of 2050 approaches.

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“To make this a reality, the government must set clear demand signals and invest properly in research and development so that industry can adopt alternative methods to manufacturing steel that is not such a carbon intensive process.

“Coking coal, essential in current steel-making, may become a thing of the past. We heard evidence that there will be limited domestic demand from any new coking coal mine.”

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