The goal of decarbonizing steel production by 2050 poses both technical and economic challenges for the steel industry and the energy sector. In the next few months, the current “environment” communication focus will shed light on how the topics of “energy” and “climate” are intertwined and how voestalpine is already contributing to making the energy industry of the future a reality.
“The climate debate has become more of an energy discussion,” says Johann Prammer, Head of Strategic Environmental Management at voestalpine AG, referring to developments at the level of EU decision-makers since the Paris Agreement. The goal in Europe—to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050—is clear, but people are already thinking beyond that. “Because it does not make sense to reduce CO2 emissions unilaterally, as was intended with emissions trading. It is also important to be able to increase energy efficiency and cover the remaining energy demand with renewable sources.”
"Away from fossil energy toward renewable energy—that is the current focus. And it means that the goal for 2050 can only be achieved if the entire energy system is changed."
Decarbonization of steel production
While there is reduction potential in the transport and building sectors that can be realized quickly, it is not so easy to flip a switch in the steel industry. By using the best available technology and continuous optimization measures, voestalpine has been able to reduce CO2 emissions by over 20% since 1990. “Just like any other sector, we will make our contribution to achieving the climate targets. The European steel industry is clearly committed to this and voestalpine is pursuing the goal of further reducing CO2 emissions by developing new low-carbon steel production processes.”
The energy transition challenge
In the long term, voestalpine is working on gradual decarbonization of steel production in order to move from coal to bridging technologies (e.g. a natural gas basis) to the possible application of CO2-neutral ‘green’ hydrogen.
However, this plan presents the Group with a number of challenges. Although the use of hydrogen would ban coal from the process (see voestalpine activities in the H2FUTURE project), it would limit the range of raw materials that can be used to produce steel. Not only do both technologies require huge investments, they are above all technologies that do not yet exist—at least not on an industrial scale. “The real problem, however, is that ‘green’ hydrogen can only be produced with electricity. This electricity must come from renewable sources and must be available in sufficient quantities,” Prammer continues. For the entire voestalpine Group, this—additional—requirement would amount to over 30 TWh (terawatt hour) per year.
“We need a certain time horizon to bring everything to maturity on an industrial scale and to implement the plant technology. This time will also be needed to advance the energy management system based on renewable sources of the future. This is now understood by all stakeholders, NGOs and also at the political level,” says Prammer.
Communication topic “energy & climate”
In the next few months, we will use the “environment” communication focus to shed light on what voestalpine is doing in the area of “energy & climate” in order to:
- Sustainably increase the energy efficiency of all plants and processes at the Group’s production sites through investments and adaptations
- Enable our customers to achieve maximum efficiency with modern material solutions, such as high-strength steel applications in automotive engineering, high-temperature steels and lamination stacks
- Make production as climate-neutral as possible through continuous optimization of raw material management and energy management
- Support the energy industry and our customers in developing new, renewable and economically sustainable forms of energy generation with highly innovative projects and products
- Advance the energy management system of the future
• Strict monitoring of emissions
• Efficient production in terms of energy and raw material use
• Active research on innovative materials and their applications as well as in the area of environmental technologies
• Energy recovery and maximum energy efficiency
More on environment: http://www.voestalpine.com/environment
Our path to a green future
We are upping the pace of emissions reduction. greentec steel from voestalpine is Austria’s largest climate protection program. Starting in 2027, this program will reduce Austria’s annual CO2 emissions by almost 5%. 2024 marks the start of the partial shift from the blast furnace to the electric arc furnace (EAF) route—once unresolved funding issues in Austria are clarified.