The widespread introduction of electric arc furnaces and the adoption of hydrogen production processes will transform the global steel industry over the next two decades, the European Electric Steelmaking Conference held in Sheffield was told.
Chris McDonald, chief executive of the Materials Processing Institute, told delegates how the majority of steel producers are looking for an alternative to existing blast furnaces, which emit large quantities of carbon dioxide and are likely to be phased out over the coming decades.
“Electric arc furnaces, combined with hydrogen ironmaking, is the best alternative technology and we expect significant growth in electric steelmaking as production switches to this method between now and 2040,” he said.
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The gathering, in its 12th year, is the primary event for steelmakers, product specialists, and the steel sector supply chain, including academics and research and technology organisations, to share knowledge on current and future developments involving electric arc steelmaking and associated techniques.
In his keynote speech, entitled Development of the UK Steel Industry, Mr McDonald outlined how electric steelmaking, alongside hydrogen – and to some extent, carbon capture and storage – will meet the challenges of the transition to a future decarbonised and digitised steel industry.
He said: “In previous years this was only of interest to those steel producers who used electric arc furnaces, but EEC 2021 has taken on huge new significance with the need to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions across the industry.”
The Institute played a major role at the conference, delivering six keynote speeches and chairing three discussion sessions.
Last year it was awarded £22 million by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to lead a five-year research and innovation programme for the steel and metals sectors to increase competitiveness and sustainability.
As part of its research into developing new, climate friendly approaches to steelmaking that relies on hydrogen and electric arc furnaces, the Institute has developed a unique pilot scale electric arc steelmaking facility at its Teesside campus.
Mr McDonald added: “This is being used to trial alternative raw materials and to push the boundaries of electric steelmaking, to make ever more challenging steel products.”
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EEC 2021 was organised by IOM3, with a fully interactive virtual experience for those unable to attend in person. Visits for delegates were also organised to Liberty Steel at Rotherham and to the Institute’s research facilities.
Tim Goodwin, senior liaison metallurgist at Liberty, joined the party touring the Institute’s Teesside campus, which included seeing the electric arc furnace in operation and the ongoing investment in state-of-the art research equipment and facilities.
He said: “It is clear from what is on show that the work being undertaken at the Materials Processing Institute will play a major role in developing new technologies to decarbonise steelmaking.”
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