Based on present technologies, producing steel using scrap is perhaps the best way to minimise the industry’s GHG emissions since this route can bring this down to below 0.5 tonne of CO2 per tonne of steel.
The steel ministry, in November 2019, issued the Steel Scrap Policy to bring focus on scientific processing & recycling of ferrous scrap.
The global steel industry contributes 6-7% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, thanks to the use of carbon as the main reducing agent as also as a fuel for steel production. GHG emissions of the Indian steel industry is 2.0-2.8 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of crude steel, against global average of 1.8 tonne of CO2. Most steel-producing countries are trying to bring down emissions further by shifting from iron-ore-based production to scrap-based production. Two seminal announcements have been made in Budget FY22, viz. introduction of vehicle scrapping policy and doubling ship-breaking capacity to 9 million tonnes per year. This will minimise dependence on import of scrap and cause a reduction of the GHG footprint of iron & steel.
Based on present technologies, producing steel using scrap is perhaps the best way to minimise the industry’s GHG emissions since this route can bring this down to below 0.5 tonne of CO2 per tonne of steel. Although most steel-producing countries are using Electric Arc Furnaces (EAF) for scrap-based production, in India, both EAF and Induction Furnaces (IF) are used. In the scrap-based route, the reduction in emissions is mainly on account of scrap used in EAF already being in a reduced state, which means lower need for coke as a reducing vis-a-vis conventional steel-making in the blast furnace. The main CO2 load in EAF-based steel production doesn’t come from the off-gas but from producing the electricity used in melting of the scrap. Thus, this can be further reduced if renewable power is used as a source of electricity. Hence, the new vehicle scrapping policy and doubling ship breaking capacity announced by the Government of India in the budget of 2021 may prove to be a boon for the steel industry to achieve its GHG emission reduction targets as large amount of ferrous scrap is likely to be generated from the scrapping of old vehicles.
Availability of ferrous scrap in India is very limited—around 25 million tonnes annually from domestic sources. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, the country imported nearly 6.5 million tonnes of scrap each year and thus large forex spending was incurrred. The steel ministry, in November 2019, issued the Steel Scrap Policy to bring focus on scientific processing & recycling of ferrous scrap. The scrapping of vehicles generates around 70-75% ferrous scrap, 6-8% non-ferrous metal scrap and remaining miscellaneous scraps of rubber, plastic, etc. With the announcement of vehicle scrapping policy, steel industry can expect enhanced indigenous availability of ferrous scrap.
The quality of the steel produced is dependent upon the quality of input material and hence any improvement made in ensuring quality of scrap will have marked influence on the steel produced. This shall strengthen the process of resource efficiency & circular economy as considerable natural resources shall be conserved with significant reduction in emission and it will help in moving towards a sustainable steel industry. The announcement of the vehicle scrapping policy couldn’t have come at a better time for steel industry in India, as well since the country lacks desired quality of coking coal and natural gas is also imported.
The author is Director, Steel Research and Technology Mission of India