Task 2: Integrated Steelmaking to Reprocess Waste

SUSTAIN Task 2: Integrated Steelmaking to Reprocess Waste

Prof. Peter Holliman, Dr Richard Thackray, Dr Eurig Jones, Lisa Ahmad, Zachary Lowther, Sam Reis

Net zero carbon does not mean zero. For example, the Earth has used CO2 as an energy vector for 4 billion years by using non-fossil carbon as a chemical fuel source and recycling the CO2 by-product using renewable (solar) energy through photosynthesis. The key to this success is that CO2 production and recycling are balanced in nature.

The problem is that, since the Industrial Revolution, energy production for heat, electricity, transport and manufacturing has operated as an almost exclusively linear economy using fossil fuel carbon as the fuel source and generating huge amounts of CO2 by-product. 

However, the scale, extreme environments (high temperature/pressure, reactive gases) and complexity of process chemistries, allied to the significant, long-standing industrial expertise in fossil fuel raw materials makes decarbonisation non-trivial. 

Task 2 considers alternative carbon sources for fossil fuel carbon based either on waste and/or on “recent” which can displace “ancient” fossil fuel carbon in iron and steelmaking. This decarbonises the process because “recent” carbon arises from COwhich has recently been removed from the atmosphere. In this way, any CO2 which is released does not add to atmospheric CO2 concentrations.


Zero carbon steelmaking is very unlikely because carbon is still required even for EAF remelting processes.

Task 2 initially focussed on reprocessing non-recyclable waste. But the scope has extended to other non-fossil fuel carbon and associated life cycle analysis. 

Task 2 also initially focussed on blast furnace ironmaking but has extended the scope to also consider slag recycling, the decarbonisation of sinter production, carbon within EAF processing and CO2 recycling.

Whilst the manufacturing processes may differ, the central theme remains – i.e., if you input non-fossil fuel material and recycle the CO2 by-products, you achieve net zero.

Key findings to date

Key parameters for non-fossil fuel carbon have been identified in comparison with the significant, long-term understanding related to fossil fuels (coke, coal, natural gas etc).

A range of non-recyclable waste and fossil fuels have been studied in the context of different iron and steelmaking processes. Parameters include reaction rates, kinetics and thermodynamics for devolatilization, burn-out, gasification and in-process reactions, in situ chemical speciation and reactivity and pilot scale simulation.

Iron and steelmaking contexts studied include blast furnaces, iron oxide sintering, EAF simulation, along with circular economy/recycling. We have also assisted steelmakers with regulatory approvals and carbon manufacturing issues.

Applications in industry

The risks to implementation are the same as they would be for the introduction of any new raw material into the process (e.g., composition, reactivity and side reactions). But these risks are exacerbated by potential additional technological changes to materials handling and the manufacturing processes themselves.

These risks can be mitigated, and the impact generated by tests at increasing scale towards plant-scale tests. Government support for full-scale plant tests would help remove barriers to impact.

Looking ahead

Energy is at the heart of all decarbonisation issues. It is the reason that fossil fuels or any alternative raw materials are used in any industrial process, and it will become, if anything, more important as we move, stepwise towards net zero.

The next stages are to consider the de-fossilisation of carbon raw materials and the decarbonisation and recycling of exhaust gases but all within the quantum yield (i.e., energy in versus energy out) of these processes.

The effect of electrification

Firstly, electrification is not a solution for steelmaking unless electricity production is also decarbonised. In fact, electricity produced using carbon (even biomass) will make the net carbon equation worse partly because of the well-known transmission and distribution inefficiencies associated with large-scale electricity generation alongside processing issues.

Hence, developing a better understanding of non-fossil fuel carbon inputs and CO2 recycling remains vital however wide you throw the circular economy loop.

Blast furnaces are large-scale gasification reactors which have the potential to be developed into multi-million tonne per year CO2 recycling units, i.e., industrial-scale atmospheric gas cleaning.

So, if iron and steelmaking become net carbon positive, this offers the potential for the steel industry to be the solution to climate change rather than part of the problem.

Further reading
  1. Cairns, S., Robertson, I., Holliman, P., & Street-Perrott, A. (2022). Treatments of wood ash amended biochar to reduce nutrient leaching and immobilise lead, copper, zinc and cadmium in aqueous solution: column experiments. Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology, 8(6), 1277–1286. https://doi.org/10.1039/d1ew00962a

About the author

Latest articles

Featured article
  • Women with Metal

    Women with Metal

    It’s been 7 weeks since the first Women with Metal event and the 2nd edition of this sell out conference has already been booked top take place on 29 October 2024. Kirsty is increasing the size and scale of the event and has booked a hall at the ICC Birmingham for year 2 with the…

    Read article →

  • Organized Crime Drives Metal Theft Epidemic: UK Economy Loses Half a Billion Annually.

    Organized Crime Drives Metal Theft Epidemic: UK Economy Loses Half a Billion Annually.

    A newly released report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Metal, Stone, and Heritage reveals that metal theft orchestrated by organized crime groups is costing the UK economy a staggering half a billion pounds each year. The comprehensive study, titled “Tackling Metal Theft,” exposes a rising trend in metal-related crimes since 2019, amounting to a…

    Read article →

  • Van Leeuwen: The Energy Project

    Van Leeuwen: The Energy Project

    In December 2021 Jill Clements told me about the Energy Project that had been signed off by Van Leeuwen UK. Jill was animated when talking about the news, and excitedly explained the potential that this opened up to her and the team. “I am very excited about it. I am really happy that finally we…

    Read article →

  • Drywall Steel Sections Secures £9.5 Million WMCA Investment

    Drywall Steel Sections Secures £9.5 Million WMCA Investment

    £13 million was all it took for a family run manufacturing business to make a monumental transformation in the historic heart of the steel industry! Drywall Steel Sections Ltd are on the move after securing loan funding of £9.5 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). Their Cradley Heath site was no longer fit…

    Read article →

  • The NASS Golf day & Summer Gathering 2023

    The NASS Golf day & Summer Gathering 2023

    On the 29th of June, Matt Tipper, Stewart Andrews and I had a swing of the clubs at Priory Breadsall in Derby. A week later, on the 6th of July, I attended the Summer Gathering in central Birmingham. Two entirely different events, seven days apart, both hosted by The National Association of Steel Service Centres…

    Read article →

  • The Stainless Steel Industry Meets at the BSSA Annual Conference & Dinner

    The Stainless Steel Industry Meets at the BSSA Annual Conference & Dinner

    The British Stainless Steel Association (BSSA) met at The Grand Hotel in Birmingham in May 2023 for their annual conference and dinner. Having attended the last four BSSA annual conferences and this year’s Food and Beverage Industry event (link to article), it was great to catch up with familiar faces from the industry and new…

    Read article →

  • Q2 Review: Analysing The Recruitment Landscape

    Q2 Review: Analysing The Recruitment Landscape

    Large corporate companies are facing challenges attracting new talent and retaining skilled staff especially when their salary structures, work flexibility and staff benefits are outdated compared to smaller, more agile SMEs. Smaller companies can have the advantage of being able to offer more flexibility and quicker decision-making, meaning they’re a more appealing option for certain…

    Read article →

  • How to use LinkedIn for YOUR Metal Business.

    How to use LinkedIn for YOUR Metal Business.

    The below presentation was given at the National Association of Steel Service Centres (NASS) 2023 Summer Gathering. In 12 days I’ll have been using LinkedIn for 12 years! On the day I joined I thought: “Wow! This business Facebook thingy is incredible! Everyone I want to do business with is right here, this will be…

    Read article →

  • Leading the Charge: Steel Dynamics in the Nuclear Industry

    Leading the Charge: Steel Dynamics in the Nuclear Industry

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently unveiled the Great British Nuclear initiative, marking a significant milestone in the UK’s pursuit of a sustainable energy future. With nuclear power playing a crucialrole in achieving net-zero emissions and reducing greenhouse gases, this announcement signals a remarkable leap forward in the nation’s commitment to clean and reliable energy sources.…

    Read article →

  • Steel Dynamics Group Ltd. Acquires Ferrari Stainless & Alloys.

    Steel Dynamics Group Ltd. Acquires Ferrari Stainless & Alloys.

    Steel Dynamics Group Ltd. Acquires Ferrari Stainless & Alloys Ltd. Launching P&P Non Ferrous: A Gateway to Enhanced Customer Services and Expansion Down South In a strategic move to bolster its position in the industry, Steel Dynamics Group Ltd. proudly announces the successful acquisition of Ferrari Stainless & Alloys Ltd. in Wimborne. This transformative development…

    Read article →

  • Sustainability is key to modern manufacturing

    Sustainability is key to modern manufacturing

    During my time supplying specialist metals into the manufacturing sector, I have noticed several things regarding the supply chain local to me in South Yorkshire. 1 Large Manufacturing companies often have difficult onboarding processes.  This makes it difficult for smaller SMES or new market entrants to be able to supply them. 2 Manufacturing companies are…

    Read article →

  • Lasers: The Tesla of Tooling

    Lasers: The Tesla of Tooling

    Welcome back, I’m LaserEd, and I work with lasers. I’ll be laser-educating for The Metal Magazine and I hope it results in more metal parts being lasered! First of all, I haven’t had an accident after writing my last article about Laser Safety. I have been busy researching. Although it is time consuming, I love…

    Read article →

  • Implementing QMS Certifications for Small Businesses and Start-Up Companies

    Implementing QMS Certifications for Small Businesses and Start-Up Companies

    Welcome to the fourth and final instalment of this short series on Quality Management System certification for small businesses and start-up companies. In this 4 part series I have been explaining exactly what third-party certification involves, and how you can level up your business through this process. The standard we are focussing on is ISO9001:2015, as…

    Read article →

Get notified when we publish new articles!

Want to feature in the next edition?