Helping to make steel production methods more sustainable
In 11 projects, the Steel Eco-Cycle research programme (full name: Towards a Closed Steel Eco-Cycle) explored the journey of steel from iron ore to junkyard, and developed methods and techniques for making production more sustainable. The research covered every stage of the steelmaking process, and its results have helped to bring about more efficient production, use and recovery of steel and slags. This knowledge is important since the use of steel is expected to double within 50 years, so developing steel in a sustainable direction is essential.
What are the most important results?
New methods for boosting the amount of steel produced with lower smelting and rolling temperatures have been developed. This saves money for the steel industry, reduces carbon emissions and uses smaller resource inputs.
A new method of extracting, for example, vanadium and manganese from steel slag has been devised. These slag substances, especially vanadium, can be reused as alloy material, which has a high financial value. Moreover, the purified slag is being used as a construction material more extensively. Another result is a new application of laser technology to detect the content of various metals in a linear flow in processes involving scrap and recovered materials.
Better methods of calculating the environmental value of high-strength steel have also been devised, saving raw materials since less steel is needed in structures. This reduces carbon emissions in production and use. One example is Friends Arena in Solna: its high-strength steel roof weighs 13% less than it would have done if built in ordinary steel. This has made it possible to cut carbon emissions in the roof production by 16%.
Who benefits from the results?
The results have been collected in a manual for engineers and researchers who want to make steel production more ecofriendly and economical.
The construction and automotive industries benefit from this programme’s results and can achieve large profits from using better, but less, steel. The steel industry also has also gained from the research by making its production methods more efficient and, in particular, being able to recover vanadium from slag. Other users who have benefited from the programme are urban planners, and also researchers and students at universities of technology.
‘Steel Eco-Cycle has brought academia and industry together. For Outokumpu, this has meant a substantial boost to knowledge in several areas. Knowledge has been exchangd between us and academia, to our mutual benefit. This has created new groupings and developed new skills.’
Peter Samuelsson, Chief Technology Officer at Sandvik Materials Technology and former Vice President R&D at Outokumpu.