Iron and steel

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

🕐 Last updated Wednesday, 23 May 2018

More efforts needed

In 2016, the energy intensity of crude steel fell by 1%, compared to an average 0.4% annual decline from 2010 to 2016. Between 2016 and 2030, the energy intensity of crude steel needs to decline by 1.2% annually to reach the SDS target. This per-tonne decrease is especially important as global steel production continued to grow by 0.5% in 2016 and initial estimates indicate stronger growth in 2017.


Energy demand and intensity in the iron and steel sector

Energy intensity of steel production reached a peak in 2009 and since has declined by 0.8% annually.

	Energy Intensity	Bioenergy	Imported Heat	Electricity	Gas	Oil	Coal
2000	21.76	0.35	0.41	2.26	2.20	0.87	12.39
2001	21.32	0.32	0.41	2.25	2.11	0.80	12.26
2002	20.31	0.34	0.40	2.29	2.09	0.76	12.48
2003	20.72	0.40	0.40	2.45	2.19	0.78	13.91
2004	20.67	0.47	0.37	2.77	2.57	0.77	15.02
2005	20.56	0.47	0.50	2.87	2.56	0.75	16.46
2006	20.07	0.45	0.53	3.11	2.51	0.72	17.78
2007	19.97	0.47	0.62	3.38	2.56	0.69	19.18
2008	20.29	0.47	0.60	3.39	2.68	0.67	19.46
2009	22.02	0.29	0.63	3.21	2.24	0.54	20.39
2010	21.25	0.35	0.69	3.68	2.64	0.59	22.53
2011	21.09	0.35	0.74	4.00	2.67	0.56	24.13
2012	21.37	0.34	0.76	3.97	2.68	0.50	25.11
2013	20.63	0.32	0.67	4.15	2.89	0.45	25.57
2014	20.75	0.31	0.62	4.25	2.91	0.43	26.15
2015	20.99	0.30	0.61	4.02	2.80	0.38	25.93
2016	20.77	0.28	0.62	4.10	2.85	0.38	25.60
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Note: Final energy demand includes blast furnace and coke oven energy consumption.


Global crude steel production increased by 0.5% in 2016 reaching 1.63 Gt1, and initial estimates suggest that global crude steel production has increased in 2017 as well2.

After having slowed in 2014 and declined in 2015, a strong 5.6% growth was observed in China in 2016, accounting for almost half of global crude steel production.

Deployment of scrap-based electric arc furnaces (EAFs) is particularly critical as a considerably less energy-intensive route compared to primary production. However, the contribution of EAFs to total crude steel production has remained at around 26% since 20133.

To achieve the SDS by 2030, global market share needs to reach over 40% (including fully scrap-based and direct reduced iron-based EAFs).


Tracking progress

Such increases in EAFs should also be accompanied by measures that promote reuse and recycling of scrap (particularly in emerging economies, as greater amounts of steel-containing products start to reach their end of life), and the reduction of material losses in manufacturing.

Short-term emissions reductions would come largely from energy-efficiency improvements and an uptake of scrap-based EAF production as greater amounts of scrap become available.

Longer-term reductions would require adopting new direct reduced iron and smelting reduction technologies, which facilitate the integration of low-carbon electricity (directly or through electrolytic hydrogen) and CCUS, as well as adopting material efficiency strategies more broadly to optimise the use of steel.


Innovation

The IEA’s new Innovation Tracking Framework identifies key long-term “technology innovation gaps” across the energy mix that need to be filled in order to meet long-term clean energy transition goals. Each innovation gap highlights where R&D investment and other efforts need improvement.

Explore the technology innovation gaps identified for steel below:

New smelting reduction process based on coal

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

New smelting reduction process would circumvent the need for iron ore agglomeration and coking, avoiding 20% CO2 emissions compared to the standard CO-BF route.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Process technology scale-up. By-product recycling: recycling of galvanised steel scrap and zinc recovery from steel plant waste oxides.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

The use of pure oxygen makes the new smelting reduction process well suited to integrate CCUS as it generates a high concentration of CO2 off-gas and emissions are delivered in a single stack compared to a standard steel mill plant with multiple emission points. The integration of carbon capture in this process would enable a reduction of 80% in CO2 emissions compared to the standard CO-BF route.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Integration of carbon capture.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Further lowering the CO2 footprint of the new smelting reduction process would alleviate pressure on other innovation steel-related streams.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Finding an optimal balance in the energy mix.

  • Currently at TRL 6, successful pilot trial.
  • Key milestone: first commercial scale demonstration by 2022.
  • The Hisarna process, originally developed and tested under the Ultra-Low-CO2 Steelmaking (ULCOS) programme. A major plant expansion at the pilot plant at Ijmuiden, Netherlands by Tata Steel. A 20 M€ investment with private funding and financial support from the European Commission programme Horizon 2020 and the Dutch Government (Netherlands Enterprise Agency).


Top gas recovery blast furnace

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Top gas recovery from blast furnaces (BF) would enable reducing carbon input needs, avoiding 20-25% CO2 emissions compared to a standard BF.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Process technology scale-up.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

The integration of CCUS in the top gas recovery blast furnace would enable a reduction of up to 55-60% of the overall CO2 emissions per tonne of steel produced compared to a standard steel mill.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Integration of carbon capture.

  • Currently at TRL 6, successful pilot trial.
  • Key milestone: first commercial scale demonstration by 2025.
  • Supporting research for a future reopening of this demonstration effort has continued through several initiatives in France. The IGAR (Injection de Gaz Réformé) project supported with private and public funds runs from 2018 to 2022, and aims to develop a full-size system that uses plasma torch technology to reform steel plant gases and inject them in the blast furnace, replacing coke by electricity.


Top gas recovery blast furnace with coke oven gas reforming

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Top gas recovery from blast furnaces with coke oven gas (COG) reforming would reduce carbon input needs, avoiding 30% CO2 emissions compared to a standard BF.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Process technology scale up. Improving technologies to produce high-strength & high reactivity coke for reduction with hydrogen.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Integration of carbon capture would significantly further reduce CO2 emissions from blast furnaces.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Integration of carbon capture.

  • Currently at TRL 5, experimental blast furnace testing.
  • Key milestone: first commercial plant by 2030.
  • The CO2 Ultimate Reduction in Steelmaking process by the Innovative technology for cool Earth 50 programme (COURSE 50), started in 2007 in Japan with the objective of bringing this technology to market. The Korean steel maker POSCO is also developing a conversion process to produce a hydrogen-rich gas from COG and CO2 through steam reforming.


New direct reduction based on natural gas

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

New direct reduced iron technology would circumvent the need for iron ore agglomeration and coking.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Pilot plant development

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

The use of pure oxygen makes the new direct reduction process well suited to integrate CCUS as it generates a high concentration of CO2 off-gas. Emissions are delivered in a single stack compared to a standard steel mill plant with multiple emission points.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Integration of carbon capture.

  • Currently at TRL 4, technology development.
  • Key milestone: first pilot plant development by 2025.
  • The ULCORED process, developed by the ULCOS programme started in 2004, has, despite low technical risks, remained at the level of preliminary studies due to a lack of economic incentives. There are no further specific plans for pilot testing.


Direct reduction based on natural gas complemented with up to 80% electrolytic hydrogen

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Increasing replacement of natural gas by hydrogen from renewable electricity in this process technology would enable between 10% to 82% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the standard blast furnace route.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Pilot plant construction and trials. Large scale hydrogen generation from renewable electricity. Process integration optimisation of new configurations.

Key initiatives

  • Currently at TRL 5, pilot plant design phase.
  • Key milestone: complete feasibility study by 2020. Pilot trials completed by 2025. Gradual scale up demonstration by 2040.
  • The Salcos project aims to perform a feasibility study (called MACOR) by 2020 of this concept with subsequent pilot trials in Germany.


Direct reduction based on hydrogen

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

The use of hydrogen from renewable electricity in this process technology would enable a 98% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to a reference blast furnace.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Pilot plant construction and trials. Large scale hydrogen generation from renewable electricity.

Key initiatives

  • Currently at TRL 5, pilot plant design phase.
  • Key milestone: pilot plants trials by 2021-2024. Demonstration plant scale trials from 2025 to 2035.
  • Plans continue to get pilot lines operational by 2020 in Luleå and the Norrbotten, Sweden. Construction costs are estimated at about USD 2.5 million (SEK 20 million), half financed by the Swedish Energy Agency and half through private funds from SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. The pre-feasibility phase was already supported with around USD 7 million (SEK 60 million) by the Swedish Energy Agency.


Direct use of electricity to reduce iron oxides (aqueous alkaline electrolysis, low-temperature 110°C)

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

The use of renewable electricity would open a fully CO2 free production route for steel, and a reduction of about 30% in energy use compared to standard steel making. It can be designed to provide demand response to help integrate variable renewables for power generation.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Develop key components of the pilot like metal harvesting and oxygen collection systems. Maximise synergies across sectors: explore the use of non-conventional raw materials (iron ore mine tailings, slimes from nickel and zinc mining, red mud from aluminium production); facilitate integration with the power grid (designs that facilitate maintenance during interruption of operations, study intermittency of operation at large scale).

Key initiatives

  • Currently at TRL 4, technology components integration.
  • Key milestone: pilot plant development by 2022.
  • The ΣIDERWIN project is led by ArcelorMittal partnering with eleven additional innovative European companies and RTOs (Research and Technology Organisations).

Direct use of electricity to reduce iron oxides (molten oxide electrolysis, high-temperature > 1500°C)

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

The use of renewable electricity would open a fully CO2-free production route for steel, and a reduction of about 30% in energy use compared to standard steel making. It can be designed to provide demand response to the electricity grid to help integrate a higher share of variable renewables in power generation.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Continue testing of inert anode materials and scale up cells.

Key initiatives

  • Currently at TRL 4, technology components integration.
  • Key milestone: pilot plant trials and scale up by 2024.
  • In 2013, anodes comprising chromium-based alloys were proven to be stable under the challenging conditions of molten oxide electrolysis for iron extraction by researchers in the US, an important step forward to enable metal production without process-related carbon emissions. Pilot testing of this inert anode material is progressing in the US (MIT). There ULCOS programme in Europe included a high-temperature electrolysis concept called ULCOWIN that was not developed beyond the laboratory scale.


Carbon capture and storage (CCS) applied to commercial iron and steel technologies

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

The integration of CCS in existing iron and steel technologies could reduce considerably the carbon footprint of steel making. The achievable emissions avoidance depends on the iron and steel process, the capture technology and the share of total CO2 generated treated in the capture unit.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Push forward demonstration of large scale chemical absorption capture technologies (e.g. amines). Pursue large scale demonstration of adsorption capture technologies (e.g. Pressure Swing Adsorption and Vacuum Pressure Swing) applied to process gases in steel plants, as well as advances in the integration of these technologies with cryogenic purification. Develop new adsorbents to overcome the energy penalty of flue gas compression for less advanced flue gas applications.

Key initiatives

  • TRL varies depending on the iron and steel production technology and the type of CO2 emission source considered for capture.
  • From TRL 5, feasibility studies for pilots (general application of CCS to steel mills) to TRL 8-9 (natural gas-based DRI for enhanced oil recovery).
  • A first commercial CCS project integrated with a natural gas-based DRI for enhanced oil recovery was commissioned in United Arab Emirates in 2017 with 0.8 kt CO2/yr capacity.


Conversion of steel works arising gases (WAG) to chemicals and fuels production (carbon capture and use, CCU)

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Improves resource efficiency of steel works, through full process integration of by-products from ethanol plants into steel plants; the increased use of low-temperature heat in steel plants for ethanol distillation; or via biomass replacing pulverised coal injection in the blast furnace, thus reducing the direct CO2 footprint of steel making. It could provide reductions in the life-cycle assessed (LCA) CO2 footprint of fuels by using ethanol produced through this route as a blending component. However, the net impact would depend on what the current use of works arising gases is (e.g. flaring vs power generation) compared to their uses as alternative feedstock for ethanol production.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Process technology commercial demonstration. Improve the efficiency and reduce the energy intensity of the product recovery and purification step. Process integration optimisation tailoring to each specific steel site. Develop LCA studies with adequate methodology and boundary conditions to assess the emissions reductions potential from this technology in different contexts. Tailor this process to produce other products such as acetic acid, acetate, isobutene and others.

Key initiatives

  • Biological synthesis - Ethanol production through fermentation from steel WAG currently at TRL 6, pre-commercial demonstration completed.
  • Steelanol.
  • Process already validated in industrial environments in China - LanzaTech BaoSteel New Energy Company in 2012 and Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Technology Company in 2013. Two commercial demonstration plants are expected to come online in China and Europe in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

This technology would facilitate a wider penetration of variable renewable power generation by providing demand load flexibility to the system. It could provide reductions in the life-cycle assessed (LCA) CO2 footprint of chemicals produced through these routes. However, the net impact would depend on what the current use of steel WAG is (e.g. flaring vs power generation) compared to their use as alternative feedstock in chemicals production.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Develop catalysts that can cope with operating fluctuations without impacting process performance while improving product selectivity and reducing costs. Some of the conversion steps would require the removal of CO2 (e.g. for ammonia production). Scrubbing and preparation of the steel WAG is another area requiring further research. The provision of hydrogen is also key for certain chemical processes (e.g. methanol).

Key initiatives

  • Chemical synthesis - chemicals production from steel WAG currently at TRL 8-9, commercial scale operation is technically possible.
  • Key milestone: develop catalysts and technologies for these processes to provide flexibility to the electricity grid for the integration of greater variable renewable power generation by 2025.
  • The Carbon2Chem initiative aims to commercially demonstrate the production of chemicals (e.g. ammonia and methanol) from steel WAG in Europe on a balancing load approach, in which chemicals production would fluctuate to alleviate electricity grid loads (and electricity prices). On the low activity periods of chemicals production, steel WAG would be used to satisfy the energy requirements of the steel plant, which is the current general practice. An industrial demonstration is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2018 in Germany. The German government is contributing with over EUR 60 million to this project.


Smelting reduction based on hydrogen plasma

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Upon full demonstration of this process technology, the use of hydrogen from renewable electricity would open a CO2 free emissions avenue for steel making.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Validation of the process at experimental scale.

Key initiatives

  • Currently TRL 3, proof of concept.
  • Key milestone: scaling up from laboratory reactor to experimental pilot by 2020.
  • The Susteel project started in 2016 aiming to upscaling of reactor from 100 g to 50 kg batch operation with power consumption of approx. 250 kW.


Electrolytic production of hydrogen

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Significant reduction in specific technology costs and performance improvements would benefit the cost-competitiveness of hydrogen-based process routes in industrial production.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Reduce investment costs. Improve stack and system design and manufacturing. Develop materials for electrodes to allow higher current densities for a given cell voltage resulting in an increase in overall efficiency. Gain experience in safe operation under variable power supply with large scale alkaline electrolysis. Increase production volumes and improve supply chain.

Key initiatives

  • Alkalyne electrolysis at TRL 7-9, state-of-the-art technology but limited deployment.
  • Key milestone: Significant costs reductions by 2030.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Significant reduction in specific technology costs and performance improvements would benefit the cost-competitiveness of hydrogen-based process routes in industrial production.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Proving large scale hydrogen production based on proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis and smart balancing with the grid. Improving performance and reducing costs.

Key initiatives

  • Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) at TRL 7-8, system development.
  • Key milestone: large scale demonstration with smart grid integration by 2021. Significant performance improvements and costs reductions by 2030.
  • The H2Future project aims to demonstrate full scale hydrogen production via PEM electrolysis and smart balancing with the power grid by 2021 in Europe. The project budget is EUR 18 million funded by the private-public partnership Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking with 70% of the funds from the European Commission. The HyBalance project in Denmark aims to demonstrate the complete value chain from hydrogen production from PEM electrolysis based on renewable electricity to end users.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Significant reduction in specific technology costs and performance improvements would benefit the cost-competitiveness of hydrogen-based process routes in industrial production.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Scale up and improve performance. Explore synergies with processes generating excess heat at high temperature and accelerate the development of suitable and economical materials.

Key initiatives

  • High-temperature Solid Oxide Electrolysis (SOE) at TRL 6-7, technology demonstration.
  • Key milestone: Improve systems integration and materials to reach commercial demonstration by 2030.
  • Green Industrial Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.
  • In Europe, the Green Industry Hydrogen project will run up to 2019 as the first implementation of the reversible high-temperature steam electrolysis as a proof-of-concept. The project aims to improve the overall electrical efficiency, reliability and scale up of SOE.

Explore all 100+ innovation gaps across 38 key technologies and sectors here.


References

  1. Worldsteel (2018), Steel statistical yearbook, https://www.worldsteel.org/steel-by-topic/statistics/steel-statistical-yearbook-.html (accessed February 2018).
  2. Worldsteel (2018), 2017 global steel production data – A pleasant surprise?, https://www.worldsteel.org/media-centre/blog/2018/Blog-2017-global-steel-production-data.html (accessed February 2018).
  3. Worldsteel (2018), Steel statistical yearbook, https://www.worldsteel.org/steel-by-topic/statistics/steel-statistical-yearbook-.html (accessed February 2018).