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Material efficiency

Emissions from steel production are controlled and can be further reduced by continuously improving material and energy efficiency in the processes. Material efficiency means making more out of less material, thereby increasing efficiency in the use of natural resources. The production of iron and steel gives rise to a range of residuals. Recirculating material as raw material back into the steelmaking process reduces the need for virgin, raw materials which in turn reduces CO2 emissions and waste. Material that is not recirculated internally is processed into by-products and sold externally, creating new revenue streams as well as reducing CO2 emissions by substituting natural resources in other industries. The choice between internal use and external sales is based on sustainability evaluation. Material value as raw material i.e. value in use and quality parameters as well as environmental effects are the key factors in this evaluation.

Recirculation of material within SSAB’s steelmaking process

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Recirculation of material within SSAB’s steelmaking process

Recirculation of material back into the steelmaking processes reduces the need for virgin raw materials and lowers production costs.

SSAB’s steel production gives rise to a number of valuable residuals that can be recirculated. Out of an annual total of around 4 million tonnes of residuals from ore-based production in the Nordics, roughly half is recirculated back to SSAB’s steel production processes. As an example, the new sludge drying method which was brought into use in Luleå in 2014 results each year in 10,000-20,000 tonnes of basic oxygen steelmaking sludge being turned into briquettes for use as a raw material instead of being landfilled. In addition, ladle slag originating in the continuous casting process in Luleå is used as raw material in the blast furnace instead of being landfilled. In Raahe, desulfurization slag is utilized in internal infrastructure construction. Development work means that ladle slag is nowadays totally utilized. The metallic part is returned back to the iron and steelmaking process. Out of the non-metallic part, course fraction is returned to the blast furnaces to replace limestone. In addition to this, the remaining undersize fraction is sold as liming agent to agriculture to replace natural liming materials.

Recycling scrap tires in Alabama

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Recycling scrap tires in Alabama

In Alabama, SSAB Americas has had a scrap tire recycling program that utilizes scrap tires as a substitute material for the carbon used for charging in the electric arc furnace (EAF).

Since 2003, SSAB has recycled more than 5 million scrap tires. The program also supports SSAB’s Foundation for Education. For ten years, SSAB has made donations of $100,000 a year to local schools for the purchase of key supplies and equipment, all as a direct result of the cost savings from the scrap tire recycling program.

External sales of by-products

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External sales of by-products

It is not viable to  recirculate all the material in steel production. In some cases, new revenue streams are created by processing material into by-products to be sold externally or used as products or raw materials in customer's applications and processes.

For example, blast furnace slag is sold to the road construction, agriculture and cement industries. An average of one third of the residuals from the ore-based steel production was processed into by-products and sold externally.

Waste management and landfill

There are residuals from production processes for which there is no current environmentally or economically viable application. These residuals must therefore be removed from the processing cycle. At SSAB, this type of waste includes flue gas sludge that cannot be utilized due to its physical and chemical properties. Management and monitoring of the company’s landfill sites are strictly regulated by the law and government authorities. Deposited waste must be handled in such a way that these resources, too, might be utilized in the future. Merox is continuously developing methods to utilize the materials which currently are landfilled. The target is to increase the utilization rate by 50 000 tonnes a year by the end of 2020 compared to the 2014 level. SSAB Americas does not own or operate waste transportation equipment or landfills, and deals only with government-approved landfills. Before waste is classified as landfill material, thorough testing and classification is carried out by a specialized third party contractor.

Merox – with a focus on sustainability

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Merox – with a focus on sustainability

In the Nordic region, SSAB's business Merox, works to optimize the value of SSAB's by-products, scrap and waste with a focus on sustainability and value creation.

Merox's operations cover the entire value chain from R&D and production to marketing and sales. The operations consist primarily of three parts; recirculation of materials to SSAB production, processing and selling products externally and managing waste that cannot be recirculated or processed into new products in a sustainable way. This includes the handling of material sent to landfill in the Nordics. Merox delivers products globally and has six production facilities in Sweden and Finland. Merox handles around 4 million tonnes of residuals each year, with an average of almost half  being recirculated and one third being sold externally. The remainder is either used in internal infrastructure or put into temporary storage. Only about 5% is sent to landfills.