The Production of Raw Materials - How Green Can Steel Be?

In March last year, the UK government released the UK Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy where it set out a target to have a “nearly fully decarbonised steel sector by 2035”. 

The target came after recommendations from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change and will be funded by a £250m Clean Steel Fund. However, it has recently been announced that there will be no investments from this fund until 2023 because according to Roz Bulleid from think tank Green Alliance there is an “absence of a clear road map for decarbonisation”. So, what does this mean for the steel industry and how green can it really be? 


What is green steel? 

Green steel is no different from any other steel; the difference is how it is manufactured. Traditionally, steel is made by using coal and is environmentally unfriendly, responsible for emitting approximately 12 million tonnes of CO2 in the UK in 2019 which accounted for 11.5 per cent of all UK industrial emissions and 2.7 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions. 

Green steel is made using hydrogen, which is produced from renewable electricity, instead of using coal. 


Can recycling help? 

One good thing about steel is that it is recyclable and according to the International Energy Agency, in 2019, about 22 per cent of the steel that was produced globally was made by remelting scrap with electric arc furnaces. However, due to sorting and contamination issues, recycled steel is of a lower quality, but this is something that can be changed and is a focus in the industry. 

Many companies are looking into how they can improve their practices to reduce their carbon footprint, for example, in 2020, Jaguar Land Rover revealed its research into an innovative recycling process that could upcycle aluminium waste from household appliances and end-of-life vehicles into the premium cars of the future and reduce production CO2 emissions by up to 26 per cent. 

Here at Flowdrill, we also produce a recyclable product as our recycled tungsten is re-used in our products to reduce waste. 


But products still need to be shipped... 

That is correct, manufacturing steel is a huge business, and that steel has to be shipped to where it needs to be increasing the carbon footprint yet again. But as they say, “every little helps” and if each manufacturer makes small changes to how they ship their products then they can make a big difference. At Flowdrill, we ship our parts in small recyclable cardboard sheets and we do this in bulk so that there are fewer trips. 


Resource use and waste management  

Just like in our everyday lives as well as other industries, reducing the amount of waste is an important element of ‘going green. When it comes to steel, this is no different. British Steel is a great example of this and according to its website “as a result of continued improvements in material management, well over 90 per cent of all residue material produced across the site is subject to internal recirculation or external recovery/recycling.” The company also re-uses materials such as scale and gas-cleaning residues within its site processes and has implemented technologies including oxide briquettes, hydro-cyclones, re-use of oily residues and de-watering facilities to recover materials back into the process. 


Is steel environmentally damaging? 

While steel does have a bit of a bad rep due to the way it has traditionally been manufactured, it is something that is used all over the world in all aspects of our lives. We use it for everything from simple things such as cutlery to surgical equipment to buildings and tanks. Steel is extremely popular due to its durability, the fact that it has no detrimental impacts on life, the way it can last for decades and it being endlessly recyclable. Today, steel is actually seen as an environmentally friendly material. However, there is always room for improvement and if more manufacturers choose to use electricity to make steel, then this will result in far less CO2 emissions than using coal and the more steel that can be recycled and reused will continue to make steel become ‘greener’.  


To find out more about what we do at Flowdrill, speak to an experienced member of our team over the phone or send us a message. 

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