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Technologies available to reduce European steel, paper and cement industry emissions



A Climate Action Network Europe report indicates the technologies needed to take Europe beyond an 80% emissions reduction in the steel, cement and paper industries already exist.

Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-Europe) commissioned CE Delft to examine CO2 efficiency in European steel, cement and paper industry. The study, published in October 2010, indicates that significant emissions reductions – 80 to 95% in 2050 – seem feasible, although technological developments need further policy to create market incentives and financial support for research and development (R&D). 

The analysis shows that not only does Europe already have the technologies available, in pilot stage, to reduce emissions significantly in the steel, cement and paper sectors, but that better use of materials focusing on higher value with lower volumes, can reduce sectoral emissions dramatically as well.

Coke-free steelmaking process

A public-private partnership supported by the European Commission is leading to the development of a series of pioneering technologies. The most promising idea emanating from the Ultra Low CO2 Steel (ULCOS) project is the Hisarna coke-free steelmaking process. Without the need to produce coke from coal and iron ore sintering, it creates 20% less emissions. Used in combination with carbon capture and storage (CCS), this technology – which will reach maturity by 2025 – has the potential to cut emissions from steelmaking by 80%.

Cement able to become a net CO2 absorber

European company Novacem is developing a magnesium oxide-based alternative to cement derived from Portland clinker – which relies heavily on blast-furnace slag and coal-fired power plant ash. It has the potential to become a net CO2 absorber as the final product absorbs more CO2 than is emitted during production. The use of magnesium silicates ensures no CO2 emissions are created from the raw materials. In contrast, every tonne of Portland cement releases 400 kg of CO2 from limestone.

Harnessing biomass by-product for paper

Swedish company Chemrec is currently working on a method to turn black liquor – a by-product from the pulp-making process – into synthesis gas (syngas). The process harnesses syngas to create the heat necessary for pulp production. In combination with CCS, this technology has the potential to offset the emissions from the entire European pulp and paper sector.

Solid vision and policy roadmap

Alongside the development of these technologies, Europe must establish long term visions for industry backed up by solid policy measures. Complementary instruments such as full carbon pricing, use of EU Emissions Trading System revenues to stimulate new technologies and a regulatory framework that phases out high carbon production sites by 2050 are all necessary steps to achieving an 80% emissions reduction.

Related information on the EcoAP Website