Globally, the steel industry is responsible for an estimated 8% of the world’s energy demand and generates between 7% to 9% of CO2 emissions – most of which are from burning coal. To meet the criteria set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change and limit the global temperature increase to below 1.5 °C compared with pre-industrial levels, the steel industry must achieve a target of net zero emissions by 2050. This will require radical transformation, especially in context of global steel demand which is projected to rise 30% by 2050.
The decarbonization challenge for steel is significant because carbon is such an integral part of its production. The problem is not a lack in available technological solutions, but the cost and complexity involved in transitioning to lower-carbon technologies. The steel sector is classified as one of the six ‘hard to abate’ sectors for this reason.
Progress in North America
In North America, crude steel production reached about 100.2 Mt according to November 2023 data by the World Steel Association. To secure future steel production and achieve the emissions targets required, the technological approach to steelmaking must change.
Actions in North America, including the use of natural gas instead of coke in conventional furnaces, the adoption of energy management systems and best practices, and heightened installations of Electric Arc Furnaces (EAF) and more energy efficient drives and motors, show we are on the right path. By integrating powerful automation, digital and electrical solutions throughout the steel production chain, ABB collaborates with metals producers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other suppliers to enable decarbonization of steel.
Partnering for sustainable steel production
It’s important to note that there is no single solution to phasing out fossil fuels, and a wide range of technological options are in development across the world. The new ABB report named ‘What does the journey to fossil-free steel look like? How to achieve a sustainable future’ highlights three pathways in which primary steel production can decarbonize: through carbon capture, hydrogen, or electrochemistry. It presents actions that steel producers can make now to reduce carbon in the short and medium term as well as steps to take with industry partners to work together towards a fossil-free steel future.
View the full ABB report ‘What does the journey to fossil-free steel look like? How to achieve a sustainable future’ here.
Join us on the journey towards a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. Through collaboration at every level of the global steel supply chain steelmaking can remain eligible as an environmentally‑sound resource.
About the author
Industry Lead and Business Manager
Metals Systems USA and Canada at ABB Inc