Electric arc furnaces (EAF) have played an increasingly important role in global steel production in recent years. EAF steel production was only about 405 million tonnes in 2015 but it was increased by 28% to 517 million tonnes in 2019, according to the World Steel Association (Worldsteel).1
The longer-term future of EAF also appears bright, thanks to the sustainability advantages it holds over blast furnace production, particularly if low-carbon forms of electricity continue to become more widely available. An increase in the availability of scrap steel, which worldsteel expects to hit 1 billion tonnes by 2030,2 will play another key role in supporting growth in EAF production. The recycling of steel is an easy win for the circular economy, with important results in terms of reducing the carbon footprint and the need for newly-mined raw materials.
With the disruption caused by COVID-19, however, the figures for this year look more challenging. For the steel industry as a whole, Worldsteel anticipates a 6.4% reduction in demand, followed by a 3.8% fall next year.3 We will have to wait and see how this effects EAF production levels but market conditions seem set to be much more challenging, at least in the short term, adding to the existing competitive and environmental pressures under which the industry was already operating.
With market conditions looking tougher after Covid-19, it is those steelmakers that are best able to embrace the advantages offered by new technology – through innovative cost cutting and a steady focus on performance – that will be best placed to ride the storm through to calmer seas.
Stirring the melt in an EAF has long been known to bring a range of benefits: from increased productivity to lower costs and enhanced control of process conditions downstream of the furnace, as well as a reduced carbon footprint. In uncertain times, these benefits could prove vital in enabling a steelmaker to survive and thrive. And at the forefront of stirring technology is electromagnetic stirring (EMS).