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
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
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
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.
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.