15 October 2013

Enviromental handbook on efficient

steel production and use

The Steel Eco-Cycle programme has ended and its last publication is an environmental handbook for engineers and researchers wishing to make production and use of steel more sustainable. The handbook puts a figure, for example, on the savings that are achievable through use of stronger steel types that reduce the quantity required.

The title of the book, in Swedish (Miljövärdering av stål och stålkonstruktioner – handbok för ingenjörer, forskare och högskolestudenter [‘Environmental valuation of steel and steel structures: a handbook for engineers, researchers and undergraduates’]), says what it is about. The typical user is a research engineer in process and product development. The book is designed to be usable as teaching material both in industry and in higher education. It contains comprehensive background data and is therefore interesting for researchers as well but, at the same time, it is so simplified that it can serve as a practical guide for industrial engineers.

‘It’s extremely interesting to see the research we’ve been doing for eight years condensed into this environmental handbook,’ says Göran Andersson, who was Programme Director for the Steel Eco-Cycle programme, which was under way from 2004 to 2013.

Compiling many different results

Steel Eco-Cycle had the goal of developing methods of making production and use of steel more sustainable from the environmental point of view. This task was essential, since steel is one of the world’s most used materials. The programme resulted in numerous new methods, applications and estimation tools, and these are now reported in the form of the handbook.

The book shows how environmental valuation of steel can add value, environmentally but also in monetary terms. It shows, for example, the quantity of carbon dioxide emissions we can avoid if structures are made in high-strength steel, of which less is needed than of ordinary steel. Lower CO2 emissions often mean less energy use and financial savings.

‘Switching to more sustainable steel has been said be environmentally valuable, but it’s been said in general terms. Now we’ve shown numerically how much it reduces environmental loads.’

One example is Friends Arena, where the roof is built in high-strength steel. This meant that the CO2 emissions during the building were 16% lower than they would have been if the roof had been built with ordinary steel.

Saving energy and CO2 in vehicles

When it comes to mobile structures like cars and goods vehicles the savings must be many times larger, since vehicles built of high-strength steel are lighter and use less fuel. The book shows that 90% of the environmental benefit from vehicles made of high-strength steel would come from reduced fuel use during the service life of the vehicle. In figures, this means that if a million tonnes of high-strength steel replaces 1.3 million tonnes of ordinary steel in vehicles, CO2 emissions decrease by 8 million tonnes and energy use by 31,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) during the manufacture and use of the vehicle.

The programme has also developed a calculating tool that is available only to participating companies so far, thus giving them a competitive advantage. In the long run, Göran Andersson thinks the perspective developed in the Steel Eco-Cycle programme will transform society’s view of steel, and the companies that have been involved will then have a head start.

‘This is a first step. We’re showing environmental benefit in a lifecycle perspective. This hasn’t been done before. We’ve looked, but we haven’t found such a practically oriented and comprehensive environmental handbook anywhere,’ Andersson says.

The handbook can be downloaded at the website of the Swedish Steel Producers’ Association.

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

Mistra Webbredaktör