Different Shades of Steel

10 Aug 2022
Author: Dr. Anand Hiremath

You are probably hearing about something called ‘green steel’ and its carbon-reducing qualities.

But what is Green steel? “In simple terms, Green steel is produced using less energy or with a minimum carbon footprint” explains GMS’ Dr Anand Hiremath. Conventional steel production requires coal in the process of making steel so producing major carbon emissions - the blast furnace method yields about two tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel. He adds, “So if coal is replaced with alternative clean energy, the steel-making process becomes green. The energy used to produce steel alone contributes to over 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Currently, Sweden is leading the world in the commercialization of large-scale green steel production, with its H2 Green Steel plant set to start producing steel from green hydrogen in 2024. Hydrogen is believed to be the fuel of the future by many and has become the priority for low-emissions technology.

But despite the hype, not all hydrogen is clean or green - it all depends on how it’s produced. If hydrogen is extracted from fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, which produces CO2  in the process and is released into the atmosphere, then the process of Hydrogen production becomes non-green. However, with the CO2 emissions captured, Hydrogen production starts to look green.

In addition, if hydrogen is produced using electricity through a process called electrolysis (which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen) and the electricity consumed for this process comes from renewable resources (solar, wind, thermal, hydro) then the hydrogen produced is called as Green or clean.

Dr. Hiremath says “it all depends on the boundary set for the life cycle assessment. If we consider the raw materials used to make solar panels or wind turbine blades, then the hydrogen produced at the end may at the end it may look green, but it is not and there is no limit up to what extent we want to cover in the scope of emissions.”

Another term being used in connection with green steel is ResponsibleSteel – a not-for-profit organization and the steel industry’s first global multi-stakeholder standard and certification initiative. ResponsibleSteel is a relatively new programme built on eight years of work to define and promote steel that has been produced and sourced responsibly. It's vision is to build a sustainable steel industry in cooperation and mutual commitment from companies at all levels of the steel supply chain, representatives of civil society, and other stakeholders.

Its Mission is to provide businesses and consumers worldwide with confidence that the steel they use has been sourced and produced responsibly at all levels of the steel supply chain, from suppliers of raw materials to end users and has developed an independent certification standard and programme for the purpose. The organization is funded through membership fees, financial contributions by some of its members, grants from philanthropic foundations and in-kind contributions from its civil society and business participants.

ResposibleSteel has partnered with the Climate Group to create SteelZero – an initiative to accelerate the steel industry’s transition to net zero carbon emissions. Using the power and influence of its members, SteelZero aims to send a strong demand signal to shift global markets and policies towards responsible production and sourcing of steel. To qualify for membership companies must make a public commitment to procure 100% net zero steel by 2050 and an interim commitment to procure, specify or stock 50% of their steel requirement by 2030.

ship recycling yard worker cutting chemical tanker using gas cutter

Dr. Hiremath says it’s important to be clear on the terms of reference for green steel. “The above points hopefully clarify the different names in today’s world marching towards sustainable steel making. There are many industries that for decades have produced green steel and the time has come to recognize the contribution of such Industries. One such industry is ship recycling.”

Few facts about ship recycling
  • - Steel produced through recycling of ships with 1/3rd of energy required to produce conventional steel via iron ore mining,

  • - 62+ Million tonnes of green steel recovered so far from recycling ships in India alone with which 8400 Eiffel towers can be built

  • - 142,000+ Metric ton of wood is recovered during ship recycling which is equivalent to 1258 football fields of trees. The best example of circular economy.

  • - 4293+ Tonnes of CO2 is captured from the atmosphere by reusing wood recovered during ship recycling

  • - The Power saved by recycling steel is equivalent to 9 years of power required for Newyork cities daily consumption

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Ship Recycling Team

About Author

Dr. Anand M. Hiremath, Chief Sustainability Officer of GMS Leadership, is a Civil Engineer and holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) India. He has a diploma in industrial safety and is a qualified lead auditor for ISO 9k, 14k and 184.

Dr. Hiremath published the first practical handbook on ship recycling, entitled: 'The Green Handbook: A Practical Checklist to Monitor the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships' which highlights the procedures the GMS SSORP follows to help both Ship and Yard Owners recycle a vessel in an environmentally-friendly manner. Dr. Hiremath is the Course Director for the first-of-its-kind 14-week online course on Ship Recycling offered by Lloyd's Maritime Academy, London."

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Ship Recycling Team