Increased customer demand, new regulatory requirements, and growth in sustainable investment are all reasons for the growing interest in “green steel”. But since no official definition of “green steel” really exists, how do we know when we’ve been greenwashed?
Traditional steelmaking is the most significant industrial contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, currently accounting for 7 percent of total CO2 emissions globally. Fortunately, there are ways to dramatically reduce or even eliminate steelmaking emissions and reach the Paris Agreement’s goal, while also helping to meet the growing demand for steel.
One successful effort is steel recycling, which has reached an impressive 90 percent in many parts of the world. However, the amount of scrap steel currently available is only enough to meet a quarter of the global demand. The second effort gaining more traction in the trend towards sustainability is the transition to more sustainable steelmaking.
The good news is that both from steel companies themselves and steel customers have a generally positive attitude towards a change in the steel industry. There are many good initiatives, but the challenge is that there isn’t really a clear definition of sustainably produced steel.
Today, the term “green steel” is commonly used to describe more sustainably produced steel. But what really is green steel?
Green steel refers to the strategy aimed at making the steelmaking process greener and more sustainable. But the trend towards increased sustainability within the steelmaking process is not without its difficulties. Many companies have begun to promote their steel as “green” when, in practice, giving this production process green accreditation presents as many problems as it does opportunities. The term “green steel” is often used to describe a product that does not meet any pre-defined criteria.
Today, companies can claim their steel is green even if the contribution to CO2 reduction is negligible, or offers no benefits whatsoever. The promise of green steel can remain if, for example, a mere 10 percent of the total process output is green while the remaining 90 percent of production output is as dirty as ever. Uncomfortable facts can be omitted at a time when there’s an urgent need to combat climate change.
“Everyone buying and using products containing steel has the right to see the facts behind climate change promises. Green statements are not enough,” says Johan Anderson, Market Development at SSAB. The responsibility of the steel industry is not just to remove the carbon footprint, but also to show exactly how it’s done.”
On a positive note, customers and end-users have started to request numbers and facts to a much higher extent, putting higher pressure on steelmakers.
“Customer demand for zero-emission products is real. It encourages and pushes us as steelmakers to go all the way, virtually eliminating the product’s carbon footprint,” says Johan Anderson, Market Development at SSAB.
The responsibility of the steel industry is not just to remove the carbon footprint, but also to show exactly how it’s done.
Johan Andersson, Market development, SSAB
When sourcing a steel supplier, the importance of not accepting a green steel label at face value, investigating what is behind that label and requesting scientific proof to support it, cannot be understated.
Since an official definition of green steel doesn’t exist, it’s only the technology and process development that are able to provide proof that a certain steel is sustainable.
SSAB’s fossil-free steel making technology HYBRIT has virtually no CO2 footprint, which makes it a real environmental game changer.
The revolutionizing technique is all about water. The water is split into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is used to remove the oxygen in the iron ore, which creates water. The water is returned to the process as a raw material to produce hydrogen. This creates a natural, closed cycle. No polluted water is being discharged, no carbon dioxide is emitted and the coal stays in the ground where it belongs.
With HYBRIT technology, SSAB aims to be the first steel company in the world to bring fossil-free steel to the market already in 2026 and largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from our own operations in around 2030. Together with our partners and customers, SSAB aims to create a fossil-free value chain, from the mine to the end-product.
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