High fossil fuel prices mean the UK cannot delay its transition to low-emission steel

by Clare Richardson-Barlow, Andrew Pimm and Pepa Ambrosio-Albala,

High fossil fuel prices mean the UK cannot delay its transition to low-emission steel

Credit: Norenko Andrey/Shutterstock

steel is Necessary, needs for creating many technologies that will end the burning of fossil fuels, including electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. Unfortunately, to produce a lot of steel, manufacturers need to burn a lot of fossil fuels.

Steel production accounts for 2% of UK emissions in 2019 and ratings Monday Because energy consumption among the country’s heavy industries. generally two-third of this energy comes from coal.

Steel mill blast furnaces burn a special type of coking coal (which is converted to a hard and porous fuel called coke) at temperatures up to 2,000°C, producing large amounts of carbon dioxide ( CO₂)—about 1.8 tons for per ton of steel. This method accounts for 82% steel production in England in 2021and 71% of all Steel made worldwide that year.

Although the production of steel from coal can be decarbonized to some extent by capturing CO₂, there must be a suitable storage site nearby or there must be a sufficient need to use that CO₂ in the plants. other industries. This is not the case with the blast furnaces in Port Talbot, Wales, occupying half of UK steel production.

The price of coking coal has been more than doubled from the beginning of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine disrupted supplies. In 2021The UK imported 39% of coking coal from Russia, with almost all the rest coming from the US and Australia.

Another option is to use natural gas, another fossil fuel. But since 2020Gas prices have also increased significantly. Recent fuel price hikes require a re-evaluation of how steel is made.

Steelmaking with green hydrogen (hydrogen has been separated from water using electricity from renewable or nuclear energy) remove fossil fuel from the process completely. As a result, it can be insulated from rising fossil fuel prices and carbon taxAll of which have made it more expensive to produce steel with fossil fuels in recent years.

UK steel industry is currently allotted free of charge emissions allowancesignificantly reduces the effective carbon price that steel producers pay. Our recent research shows that, if this exemption is phased out, then green hydrogen steelmaking produced with wind and solar power will in fact be cheaper than all other options.

green steel

Convertible Hydrogen iron ore into a pure form called porous iron through a process called direct reduction. This involves heating hydrogen to temperatures between 800 and 1,000°C, reacting with oxygen in iron ore to produce pure iron and steam, which emits no carbon. The spongy iron is then processed in an electric arc furnace to produce steel.

Electric arc furnaces can also recycle scrap metal and while the UK does not have a direct reduction furnace, it does have one. five electric arc furnace recycle scrap to provide 18% steel in the country. If renewable electricity powering these furnaces and used to generate hydrogen that fuels the production of sponge iron, the total emissions from the steel industry can be zero.

EU and UK have both commit end Russian coal imports by 2022 and major producers such as Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal stopped using Russian goods in their supply chain.

While high gas and electricity prices are causing some industries to turn back coal burning, our findings suggest that green hydrogen offers a cheaper alternative for steelmakers. In recently fossil fuels priceWe estimate that green hydrogen direct reduction in steel production could be about 15% cheaper than the cheapest coal-based option (including carbon capture and storage) over a typical 25-year project life. Figure.

Steelmaking using green hydrogen and electric arc furnaces a lot of electricity. So in a recent paperwe looked at reducing industrial electricity bills by eliminating green taxes (which raise funds to promote the deployment of renewable technology and support vulnerable customers) and maintenance costs energy grid, and at the same time move to a common tax.

This would put the UK’s steel industry on a par with France and Germany. We find that price parity can be achieved by increasing the average income tax bill by around 68p, rising to around £5.50 if UK steel production shifts entirely to direct reductions. with green hydrogen.

The British government is consider exempting energy-consuming industries from paying green tax. But skyrocketing fossil fuel prices have increased wholesale electricity costs so much that their removal and network maintenance fees won’t have a significant impact on bills.

Instead ofSteel producers and other heavy industries can access cheap renewable electricity directly in the green energy source.

The UK cannot afford to continue coal-based steel production in its decarbonisation strategy and must ensure the steel industry is ready to switch to green hydrogen. fuel instead of.

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quote: High fossil fuel prices mean the UK cannot delay its transition to low emission steel (2022, 5 December) accessed 5 December 2022 from https://techxplore .com/news/2022-12-high-fossil-fuel-prices-uk.html

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