This modelling exercise has several direct implications for climate policy with regards to steel makers.
Immediate Action is Critical
The lifetime of most emitting plants between substantial retrofits is normally at least 25 years. Therefore the 2020s and 2030s are critical. Many east Asian and specifically Chinese facilities are coming to their furnace relining date, when the core blast furnaces and basic oxygen furnaces must be shut down and rebuilt with new refractory linings, and this is the critical opportunity for substituting in low emitting iron reduction and smelting.
Limited CCS Potential for Existing Capacity
The need for pipelines to transport CO2 for storage put infrastructure limitations on the use of all types of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) globally. For many existing facilities, their supply chains and markets are simply not where the geological disposal is, and transport and more critical rights of way will be needed.
Siting of New Production
A substantial amount of demand globally cannot be met at existing sites with CCS or green hydrogen DRI (this is the wedge marked “NSP, or Non Spatial Production” in the Pathway results). This new iron and or steel production that must be sited in appropriate geographies for CCS or renewables based hydrogen production.
Countries with CCS geology and or renewable electricity generation potential have the opportunity to become a green iron & steel exporter, all the more so if they have plentiful iron ore compared to domestic needs (e.g., Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Russia).
To maximum advantage of the growing recyclable iron product stock, vehicles, buildings, and infrastructure need to be designed to be taken apart at end of life in a way that allow high quality, low contamination recycling.
Our medium demand, low demand and recyclable scrap projections imply that there are building code, design & recyclability policies in place for material efficiency/circularity. The medium demand projection implies a 25% decline from today’s level of material intensity.
Achieving a 1.5C compatible transformation requires a clear communication to steel makers that no more BFBOFs without 90% carbon capture can be built past 2025, and that manufacturers should be planning to invest in near zero emissions alternatives. This requires a multi-level policy commitment to transition to net-zero GHG industry. This in turn requires a transition pathway planning process including all key stakeholders to assess strategic & technolopgy options, competitive advantages, and uncertainties.
Starting the process of clean replacement in the late 2020s requires a fast and effective global innovation process to commercialize green hydrogen DRI, which is partially underway in Europe and will likely meet the 2028 goal for several plants being operating, and BFBOF CCS, which is arguably going too slowly to meet the 2030 goal.
Innovation implies accelerated R&D and commercialization – lead markets can be created with partners to build economies of scale with public and private green procurement, content regulations, supply chain branding, guaranteed pricing & output subsidies (e.g. contracts for difference). A systemic innovation and market uptake approach is needed, that includes new market design that values electricity system energy, capacity and demand response co-benefits in the business model.
Improved local air quality and reduced waste use benefits should be assessed as part of the transition. pathway planning process including all key stakeholders to assess strategic & tech options, competitive advantages, and uncertainties.
Infrastructure and Renewable Energy Investment
Spatial planning and investment is required to get the necessary rights-of-ways and infrastructure in place for the necessary CO2 pipelines. Investment is also needed to support additional solar or other clean electricity generation and facilities for overnight hydrogen storage.