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Steel Turns Energy Reduction From Pipe Dream To Reality

The worldwide growth of economies and populations has caused an immense increase in demand for energy. Energy prices have always been volatile, a trend that is expected to continue and perhaps even worsen in the years ahead - this is creating pressure but also opportunities for the steel industry. It encourages the creation of new conservation technologies, substitution of fuels, and the development of new steelmaking processes that are more environmentally friendly, in order to reduce the industry’s reliance on energy sources.

Currently, steel industries are the largest energy consuming sector in the world. They account for 15% of the world’s industrial energy consumption – across the globe, steel industries are highly energy intensive. Of the total cost of producing steel, 20% is spent on energy.

Steel is essential to the technologies and solutions to meet society’s everyday needs, today and in the future. It is central to current transportsystems, infrastructure, housing, manufacturing, agriculture, water and energy supply.

The increasing cost of energy and its current and future availability highlights the need to refocus attention on energy conservation in steel production. The steel industry uses energy to turn iron ore and scrap metal into steel. Hundreds of the products we use every day are made of steel. It is a very hard, durable metal and it must be heated to very high temperatures to manufacture it. Producing those high temperatures takes a lot of energy. But there is good news – since 1975, the industry has reduced its energy consumption by 45% per tonne of steel. New technology has made steel stronger so that less is needed for many applications. The use of recycled steel also saves energy – it requires around 60% less energy to recycle steel using Electric Arc Furnace technology than to make it from iron ore using blast furnaces. Today, two-thirds of new steel is made from recycled scrap, making steel the world’s leading recycled product.

The steel industry also has a great responsibility to contribute to sustainable development.

Over the years, the industry has demonstrated important developments and improvements measurable through indicators and targets that have been achieved. Via sustainable management of the environment and its finite resources, the steel industry recognizes that it has a significant responsibility to tackle the global climate challenge.

Wind

Offering the energy industry a complete range of products and solutions relating to each step of the energy lifecycle, from production to transformation and transport, has become a priority for steel manufacturers. Wind energy, for example, requires specific and reliable foundation solutions adapted to high loads and dynamics but which are also able to reduce the total environmental footprint.

Lattice tower wind turbines have experienced a renaissance in recent years, as they are ecologically attractive, being the most cost-effective solution, especially for on-shore applications. At the great heights that they reach, increased wind speeds may be utilized to increase efficiency and turbine power. Additionally, the variation of wind over a vertical surface decreases with height, thus fatigue stresses are reduced as well. The design provides a reduced frontal area, optical transparency, and reduced weight in combination with high bending stiffness. The low-cost steel strengthened structure, combined with corrosion protection through galvanizing, makes lattice towers an excellent investment over the long term – lighter, less expensive, easier to deliver in restricted areas (hills, forest) and have very low life-cycle costs for sustainable energy production.

Solar

Solar technology can collect the sun’s energy via two different methods, namely photovoltaic cells or with collectors heated by the sun. Solar power plants require various long steel products, and the corrosion protection of hot dip galvanizing helps ensure that such products are virtually maintenance free.

Biomass

Biomass, as a renewable energy source, is biological material from living matter. It can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel. Biomass helps to reduce the global human environmental footprint by recycling waste into energy. 

Over the years, the steel industry has introduced new products such as Histar® steel grades that combine high-yield strength with excellent toughness at low temperatures and outstanding weldability for use in biomass plants. For the same bearing capacity, Histar 460 high-strength steel sections are 25-50% lighter than conventional steel profiles and, thanks to this improved performance, the construction cost, weight and carbon footprint are significantly reduced.

For more information about steel’s contribution to reduced energy use,


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