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image European Research News Centre > Energy > A marriage of increased productivity and environmental improvements
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image image image Date published: 07/11/02
  image A marriage of increased productivity and environmental improvements
RDT info 35
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  Images of the large steel-making centres of the last century, shrouded in a thick black pall of toxic smoke, probably remain as the strongest symbol of industrial pollution. The accumulated technological progress of many years of research and innovation has since made such scenes obsolete.
   
     
   

This radical change was not, however, the result of a dramatic ‘revolution’ in the basic thermodynamic principles used in the process of transforming iron into steel. For 50 years the ECSC’s policy was to support research bringing many ‘small’ innovations. This patient policy of advancing in measured steps, comprising projects addressing both productivity and purely environmental aspects, produced very significant global results.

CO2 cut by half

Progress made in controlling the quality of the blast furnace charge, the use of combined fuels and equipment improvements means that today one tonne of steel can be produced using 450 kg of coke equivalent compared with 900 kg in the 1960s. Although the initial aim of such energy savings was to reduce production costs, it has also resulted in a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Another recent example is the spectacular progress made in the development of continuous smelting processes for stainless steel and thin strip carbon steel which drastically reduces the traditional steel-rolling activities and the associated energy and equipment costs.

The zero waste objective

Since the late 1980s, at the same time as continuing efforts to boost productivity and reduce energy consumption, the ESCE’s Steel research programme has concentrated increasingly on projects directly related to strictly environmental concerns. Many projects have been financed in the field of the agglomerating process which is responsible for one-third of the dust emissions and two-thirds of the SO2 emissions of the steel industry as a whole. This research has focused on innovations to provide filtering systems that are more effective than the conventional electrostatic processes, the reduction of emissions at source, and the modelling of parameters involved in the manufacturing processes which are the cause of harmful emissions.

Another key field is the processing and recycling of all the toxic waste and by-products of the steel industry, as well as waste water treatment.


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The durability of steel

Steel is not only the world’s most used metal material, it is also the most recyclable and recycled. In terms of natural resources this economy is also an economy in itself: production by recycling is less expensive and consumes less energy than smelting steel from minerals. About 45% of steel products in current use are made from recycled ferrous waste, a percentage that is growing all the time.

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Far from finished
The quest for clean coal
Steel has a tough life
A marriage of increased productivity and environmental improvements
 
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The optimal operation of modern blast furnaces involves a real-time analysis of a variety of data which goes far beyond what man could do. Cognitive information systems now permit a unified approach to collecting and interpreting data within the alloy production unit, and bring decisive improvements to a centuries-old technology. Pictured here is the steel control room at the Avesta Polarit plant in Sweden. © Avesta Polarit

The optimal operation of modern blast furnaces involves a real-time analysis of a variety of data which goes far beyond what man could do. Cognitive information systems now permit a unified approach to collecting and interpreting data within the alloy production unit, and bring decisive improvements to a centuries-old technology. Pictured here is the steel control room at the Avesta Polarit plant in Sweden.
© Avesta Polarit

 


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