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Decarbonisation of the steel industry

Our Decarbonisation of the steel industry work is focused on integrated strategies to eliminate the dependence of iron and steel production on fossil carbon.

The steel industry is one of the most carbon intensive sectors and is very challenging to decarbonise. There have been efforts to develop various routes for decarbonising steel production, such as use of hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass and some industry roadmap development. What is lacking, and our work aims to provide, is truly integrated strategy that incorporates technologies, policies, stakeholders and especially their interaction.

Using a whole systems approach, we aim to identify the optimum real-world routes for eliminating fossil carbon from the production of iron and steel. We also aim to deliver an effective strategy for integrating the decarbonisation efforts of the steel industry with sectors that impact decarbonisation of steel and vice versa.

Our focus is primarily on steel produced in the UK, but we see it as essential to also consider steel imported either directly, or embodied in imported manufactured goods.

To address the challenge of decarbonising the steel industry we are:

Quantifying, in detail, the technical potential and likely costs of each possible route for decarbonising primary iron and steel production and recycling, as a function of time and how these routes would interplay.

Identifying quantitatively and seeking to reconcile the likely conflicts, in terms of resource competition (e.g. the interplay with other uses of electricity, such as increased demand from EVs), between decarbonising steel production and decarbonisation of other sectors and considering optimal matching of energy and materials sources/sinks between the steel industry and diverse industries.

Defining transition pathways leading to total decarbonisation of the steel industry and then building these into highly quantitative industry roadmaps, incorporating resource uncertainty/resilience and location-specific plans. We are seeking to identify business models, policies and financial support mechanisms that are needed to overcome lock-in of existing technologies and ways of operating, recognising international competitiveness concerns.

Using all of the above, we aim to identify and quantify how interactions amongst the system-of-systems shape the overall decarbonisation outcomes and how to reach stakeholder acceptance and deliver change.

Project team:

  • Professor William Gale, University of Leeds (PI)
  • Professor Jenny Jones, University of Leeds
  • Professor Peter Taylor,  University of Leeds
  • Dr Valerie Dupont, University of Leeds
  • Professor Nigel Smith, University of Leeds
  • Dr Andrew Ross, University of Leeds
  • Professor Tim Cockerill, University of Leeds
  • Dr Jonathan Norman, University of Leeds
  • Dr Andrew J Pimm, University of Leeds
  • Dr Pepa Ambrosio-Albala, University of Leeds
  • Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, University of Sheffield
  • Professor Bill Nimmo, University of Sheffield

Banner photo credit: Tobias Keller on Unsplash

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