Steel emission reduction urgently requires technological iteration and upgrading

    The future development goal of the steel industry will gradually shift from low-carbon to zero carbon emissions of products, relying on continuous improvement and upgrading of technology and processes.

    The steel industry is one of the most difficult industries to achieve carbon neutrality. According to data from the World Iron and Steel Association, China's crude steel production in 2022 was approximately 1.013 billion tons. According to the calculation of 1.8 tons of carbon emissions per ton of crude steel, the carbon emissions of China's steel industry were about 1.823 billion tons last year, accounting for more than 15% of the total carbon emissions in the country. It is the industry with the largest carbon emissions among the 31 categories of manufacturing industry.

    "Under the goal of" double carbon ", high emission industries have successively issued carbon peak targets, and low-carbon steel industry and zero carbon products are imperative." Referring to the future development trend of the steel industry, Zhang Wenbin, vice chairman of the carbon neutrality Professional Committee of China Energy Conservation Association, pointed out in an interview with reporters that the future development goal of the steel industry will gradually shift from low carbon industry to zero carbon emissions of products, and needs to rely on continuous improvement and upgrading of technology and process.

Important Ways to Reduce Carbon

    The steel industry is an important basic industry of the national economy. As of now, there are still problems in the steel industry, such as high overcapacity pressure, insufficient industrial safety guarantee capacity, and the need to improve the level of green and low-carbon development.

    In order to accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions in the steel industry, the "Guiding Opinions on Promoting High Quality Development of the Steel Industry" clearly proposes to strive to complete ultra-low emission transformation of over 80% of steel production capacity by 2025, reduce comprehensive energy consumption per ton of steel by more than 2%, and reduce water resource consumption intensity by more than 10%, ensuring that carbon reaches its peak before 2030.

    Zhang Wenbin believes that "under the carbon neutrality goal of carbon peak, China's renewable energy substitution process has accelerated, and energy saving and efficiency improvement has become the main theme of manufacturing industry emission reduction represented by steel, which is also the main direction of steel industry development at this stage. At present, the steel industry continues to carry out supply side structural reform, strictly implement capacity replacement, optimize productivity layout, and dig deep into the potential of energy conservation and carbon reduction."

    According to the report of China Post Securities, in the above context, the steel industry will improve smelting technology, vigorously promote the full scrap electric furnace process, the joint regeneration and reuse of steel industry wastewater, and the electromagnetic strong oxidation deep treatment process of coking wastewater, supporting the clean production transformation and ultra-low emissions of the steel industry.

    However, Zhang Wenbin pointed out that "China's steel production capacity is in great demand, and the demand for raw materials is high. Due to the lack of scrap resources, it is difficult to support the supply of raw materials. Therefore, the long-term steel making method with iron ore, limestone and coking coal as raw materials still plays a dominant role. It is very difficult to achieve carbon neutrality. Only promoting energy conservation and emission reduction can not achieve the goal of" double carbon "in the steel industry, and special technologies need to be adopted."

    China Merchants Bank Research Institute also provides the same viewpoint. From the current situation of main smelting technologies, there are three main ways to reduce carbon: firstly, to complete ultra-low emission transformation and reduce comprehensive energy consumption per ton of steel, but there is limited room for further reduction; The second is to reduce crude steel production and directly reduce carbon emissions; The third is to improve steel smelting technology and achieve low-carbon or zero carbon metallurgy.

The existing technological route has limitations

     The International Energy Agency believes that there are two technological routes for the steel industry to achieve net zero emissions. One approach is carbon management, which utilizes CCUS technology to capture carbon and use it as a reducing agent in ironmaking to offset carbon emissions during the production process; Another type is non coke smelting, which avoids the generation of carbon dioxide by minimizing the use of carbon.

    The report from Guoyuan Securities shows that green hydrogen smelting is a representative technology for non coke smelting. Hydrogen can replace coke as a reducing agent in steelmaking processes. Promote the use of green hydrogen in the steel industry to achieve emission reduction effects. China Merchants Bank Research Institute also stated that "green hydrogen+steel" is one of the feasible solutions for future steel mills to reduce carbon emissions, and metallurgical technology is expected to show an upgrading trend from coke to hydrogen.

    However, both of these technological routes have certain limitations. "In order to achieve the goal of carbon peak carbon neutrality, the iron and steel industry is actively engaged in technological innovation. CCUS and green hydrogen metallurgy technology are the mainstream zero carbon technology routes in the iron and steel industry at present. However, most of the CCUS technologies remain trapped to store carbon dioxide underground, and reuse has not yet formed large-scale development. As for the green hydrogen metallurgy technology route, green hydrogen preparation is still in the early stage of development, and the industrial chain has hydrogen supply weaknesses and life cycle carbon cycle gaps The technique is also immature Zhang Wenbin said.

    The International Energy Agency stated that although CCUS technology has made some breakthroughs, it still takes time to truly achieve commercialization and industrial development. At present, it cannot meet the emission reduction needs of high emission industries represented by steel, and relying solely on CCUS technology to promote emission reduction in the steel industry is not realistic.

Looking forward to a hundred flowers blooming in technology

    Zhang Wenbin proposed that in order to promote the ecological industrial construction of the steel industry and achieve maximum value, it is necessary to adhere to technological innovation. A hundred flowers blooming is more conducive to the progress of the steel industry. Whether it is CCUS technology or various new non coke smelting technologies, they must be developed and continuously tested. With the deepening of the 'dual carbon' process, more new processes and technologies will emerge in the industry, or it will drive the steel industry to save energy and reduce carbon to a new level

    The International Energy Agency proposed in the "Global Energy Industry 2050 Net Zero Emissions Roadmap" that by 2030, most of the carbon dioxide emissions reductions achieved globally will mainly come from existing technologies, and by 2050, more than half of the carbon dioxide reduction achievements will be attributed to current technological reserves, i.e. future technologies.

    "Based on China's renewable energy resources endowment and development status, while developing existing technologies, we should also pay attention to the role of biomass energy in reducing emissions in the steel industry. China's about 3 billion tons of biomass resources should no longer be used for direct combustion power generation or heating, but can be applied to the development of biomass gasification carbonization ecosystem engineering technology, helping the steel industry to achieve industry carbon peak and product carbon neutrality." Zhang Wenbin said, "For example, using BECNU ecosystem engineering technology, biomass is pyrolysed and gasified to produce biomass gas and biochar. carbon neutrality biomass gas can completely replace the fossil energy required for short process steel production. At the same time, biochar can replace some fossil auxiliary materials, and the remaining biochar can be made into carbon neutrality biochar fertilizer and applied to soil to fertilize and fix carbon, so as to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the life cycle of short process electric furnace steel."

    At the end of April, the world's first carbon neutrality steel contract was finalized. Carbon neutrality Biogas Co., Ltd. won the bid of carbon neutrality Steel Project of Fujian Dingsheng Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. of Yaxin Iron and Steel Group, and explored the path of carbon neutrality realization of steel industry products by using BECNU ecosystem engineering technology.

    Zhang Wenbin pointed out that in order to address climate change and implement the 'dual carbon' strategy, it is necessary for the entire society to play a game of chess, adhere to systematic thinking, and consider the industry as a whole. It is not feasible to fight alone. The era of one technology, one move, and the whole world is already over. With the goal of green development, the steel industry must actively layout new technologies and accelerate technological iteration and upgrading