Special Issue "Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050"

A special issue of Metals (ISSN 2075-4701).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Lauri Holappa
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Aalto University, P.O. Box 16100, FI-00076 AALTO, Espoo, Finland
Interests: fundamentals of metallurgical processes; sustainability in steel production; converter processes; clean steel production; inclusion engineering; Tundish metallurgy; slag chemistry

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The world is experiencing a period of imminent threat regarding climate change. The IPCC report 2018 defined the jointly approved target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2050, which means deep cutting of CO2 emissions comprehensively. These challenges concern all human activities, including steel production.

Steel is central to modern society. It is necessary for infrastructure, buildings, transportation vehicles, and energy production. The annual consumption of steel is about 1.6 billion tons, and this is growing due to global progress. Steel production is quite an energy-intensive branch of industry. Due to the central role of coal/coke in ironmaking, carbon dioxide emissions are large corresponding to approximately 7 % of the total anthropogenic CO2 emissions. On the other hand, steel is a necessary material to solve the global dilemma to radically decrease the use of fossil energy and increase the share of renewable energy. The challenge of the steel industry is thus dual: on one hand, it must strongly cut its own CO2 emissions by improving and developing the process route, and on the other hand by developing new steel grades with improved properties in order to achieve a longer life cycle and better recyclability.

This themed Issue aims to review the present situation of steel production, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions. The potential methods to decrease CO2 emissions in current processes via improved energy and materials efficiency, increasing recycling, and utilizing alternative energy sources are considered. Development programs for current and novel innovative processes as well as trends of alternative energy sources are surveyed. Additionally, the role of steel as an integral part of the global circular economy should be discussed. As a whole, the target of this Issue is to give a holistic overview of the current situation and challenges, and a comprehensive cross-section of the potential technologies and solutions for the global CO2 emissions problem.

Prof. Lauri Holappa
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Metals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Steel industry
  • Energy consumption
  • Energy saving
  • Waste energy
  • By-products
  • Sustainability
  • Mitigation of CO2 emissions
  • Innovative processes
  • Future challenges
  • Circular economy

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
The Mini Blast Furnace Process: An Efficient Reactor for Green Pig Iron Production Using Charcoal and Hydrogen-Rich Gas: A Study of Cases
Metals 2020, 10(11), 1501; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10111501 - 11 Nov 2020
Abstract
The mini blast furnace process is an efficient route to produce pig iron based on the burden with granulated charcoal. New, improved technologies have recently been introduced in the mini blast furnace process, such as pulverized charcoal and gas injections, new burden materials, [...] Read more.
The mini blast furnace process is an efficient route to produce pig iron based on the burden with granulated charcoal. New, improved technologies have recently been introduced in the mini blast furnace process, such as pulverized charcoal and gas injections, new burden materials, and peripheral devices that improve the overall process efficiency. In this paper, we revise the new injection possibilities and discuss new aspects for further developments. The analysis is carried out with a comprehensive multiphase multicomponent mathematical model using mass, momentum, and energy conservation principles coupled with the rate equations for chemical reactions, multiphase momentum, and heat exchanges. We analyze new technological possibilities for the enhancement of this process as follows: (i) a base case of pulverized charcoal injection with industrial data comparison; (ii) a set of scenarios with raceway injections, combining pulverized charcoal with hydrogen-rich fuel gas, replacing granular charcoal in the burden; (iii) a set of scenarios with hydrogen-rich gas injection at the shaft level, replacing reducing gas in the granular zone of the reactor; and the possible combination of both methodologies. The simulated scenarios showed that a considerable decrease in granular charcoal consumption in the burden materials could be replaced by combining a pulverized charcoal injection of 150 kg/tHM and increasing rich gas injections and oxygen enrichment values, decreasing the specific blast injection and granular charcoal. The productivity of the mini blast furnace process was increased for all scenarios compared with the reference case. We review the aspects of these operational conditions and present an outlook for improvements on the process efficiency. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessArticle
A General Vision for Reduction of Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions from the Steel Industry
Metals 2020, 10(9), 1117; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10091117 - 19 Aug 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The 2018 IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s) report defined the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 °C by 2050. This will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities”. The challenge falls on all sectors, [...] Read more.
The 2018 IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s) report defined the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 °C by 2050. This will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities”. The challenge falls on all sectors, especially energy production and industry. In this regard, the recent progress and future challenges of greenhouse gas emissions and energy supply are first briefly introduced. Then, the current situation of the steel industry is presented. Steel production is predicted to grow by 25–30% by 2050. The dominant iron-making route, blast furnace (BF), especially, is an energy-intensive process based on fossil fuel consumption; the steel sector is thus responsible for about 7% of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In order to take up the 2050 challenge, emissions should see significant cuts. Correspondingly, specific emissions (t CO2/t steel) should be radically decreased. Several large research programs in big steelmaking countries and the EU have been carried out over the last 10–15 years or are ongoing. All plausible measures to decrease CO2 emissions were explored here based on the published literature. The essential results are discussed and concluded. The specific emissions of “world steel” are currently at 1.8 t CO2/t steel. Improved energy efficiency by modernizing plants and adopting best available technologies in all process stages could decrease the emissions by 15–20%. Further reductions towards 1.0 t CO2/t steel level are achievable via novel technologies like top gas recycling in BF, oxygen BF, and maximal replacement of coke by biomass. These processes are, however, waiting for substantive industrialization. Generally, substituting hydrogen for carbon in reductants and fuels like natural gas and coke gas can decrease CO2 emissions remarkably. The same holds for direct reduction processes (DR), which have spread recently, exceeding 100 Mt annual capacity. More radical cut is possible via CO2 capture and storage (CCS). The technology is well-known in the oil industry; and potential applications in other sectors, including the steel industry, are being explored. While this might be a real solution in propitious circumstances, it is hardly universally applicable in the long run. More auspicious is the concept that aims at utilizing captured carbon in the production of chemicals, food, or fuels e.g., methanol (CCU, CCUS). The basic idea is smart, but in the early phase of its application, the high energy-consumption and costs are disincentives. The potential of hydrogen as a fuel and reductant is well-known, but it has a supporting role in iron metallurgy. In the current fight against climate warming, H2 has come into the “limelight” as a reductant, fuel, and energy storage. The hydrogen economy concept contains both production, storage, distribution, and uses. In ironmaking, several research programs have been launched for hydrogen production and reduction of iron oxides. Another global trend is the transfer from fossil fuel to electricity. “Green” electricity generation and hydrogen will be firmly linked together. The electrification of steel production is emphasized upon in this paper as the recycled scrap is estimated to grow from the 30% level to 50% by 2050. Finally, in this review, all means to reduce specific CO2 emissions have been summarized. By thorough modernization of production facilities and energy systems and by adopting new pioneering methods, “world steel” could reach the level of 0.4–0.5 t CO2/t steel and thus reduce two-thirds of current annual emissions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessCommunication
Toward a Fossil Free Future with HYBRIT: Development of Iron and Steelmaking Technology in Sweden and Finland
Metals 2020, 10(7), 972; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10070972 - 18 Jul 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
The Swedish and Finnish steel industry has a world-leading position in terms of efficient blast furnace operations with low CO2 emissions. This is a result of a successful development work carried out in the 1980s at LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag, mining company) and [...] Read more.
The Swedish and Finnish steel industry has a world-leading position in terms of efficient blast furnace operations with low CO2 emissions. This is a result of a successful development work carried out in the 1980s at LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag, mining company) and SSAB (steel company) followed by the closing of sinter plants and transition to 100% pellet operation at all of SSAB’s five blast furnaces. However, to further reduce CO2 emission in iron production, a new breakthrough technology is necessary. In 2016, SSAB teamed up with LKAB and Vattenfall AB (energy company) and launched a project aimed at investigating the feasibility of a hydrogen-based sponge iron production process with fossil-free electricity as the primary energy source: HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology). A prefeasibility study was carried out in 2017, which concluded that the proposed process route is technically feasible and economically attractive for conditions in northern Sweden/Finland. A decision was made in February 2018 to build a pilot plant, and construction started in June 2018, with completion of the plant planned in summer 2020 followed by experimental campaigns the following years. Parallel with the pilot plant activities, a four-year research program was launched from the autumn of 2016 involving several research institutes and universities in Sweden to build knowledge and competence in several subject areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Hydrogen Ironmaking: How It Works
Metals 2020, 10(7), 922; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10070922 - 09 Jul 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
A new route for making steel from iron ore based on the use of hydrogen to reduce iron oxides is presented, detailed and analyzed. The main advantage of this steelmaking route is the dramatic reduction (90% off) in CO2 emissions compared to [...] Read more.
A new route for making steel from iron ore based on the use of hydrogen to reduce iron oxides is presented, detailed and analyzed. The main advantage of this steelmaking route is the dramatic reduction (90% off) in CO2 emissions compared to those of the current standard blast-furnace route. The first process of the route is the production of hydrogen by water electrolysis using CO2-lean electricity. The challenge is to achieve massive production of H2 in acceptable economic conditions. The second process is the direct reduction of iron ore in a shaft furnace operated with hydrogen only. The third process is the melting of the carbon-free direct reduced iron in an electric arc furnace to produce steel. From mathematical modeling of the direct reduction furnace, we show that complete metallization can be achieved in a reactor smaller than the current shaft furnaces that use syngas made from natural gas. The reduction processes at the scale of the ore pellets are described and modeled using a specific structural kinetic pellet model. Finally, the differences between the reduction by hydrogen and by carbon monoxide are discussed, from the grain scale to the reactor scale. Regarding the kinetics, reduction with hydrogen is definitely faster. Several research and development and innovation projects have very recently been launched that should confirm the viability and performance of this breakthrough and environmentally friendly ironmaking process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Metals Production, CO2 Mineralization and LCA
Metals 2020, 10(3), 342; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10030342 - 04 Mar 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Modern methods of metal and metal-containing materials production involve a serious consideration of the impact on the environment. Emissions of greenhouse gases and the efficiency of energy use have been used as starting points for more sustainable production for several decades, but a [...] Read more.
Modern methods of metal and metal-containing materials production involve a serious consideration of the impact on the environment. Emissions of greenhouse gases and the efficiency of energy use have been used as starting points for more sustainable production for several decades, but a more complete analysis can be made using life cycle assessment (LCA). In this paper, three examples are described: the production of precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) from steelmaking slags, the fixation of carbon dioxide (CO2) from blast furnace top gas into magnesium carbonate, and the production of metallic nanoparticles using a dry, high-voltage arc discharge process. A combination of experimental work, process simulation, and LCA gives quantitative results and guidelines for how these processes can give benefits from an environmental footprint, considering emissions and use and reuse of material resources. CO2 mineralization offers great potential for lowering emissions of this greenhouse gas. At the same time, valuable solid materials are produced from by-products and waste streams from mining and other industrial activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessArticle
Review of the Energy Consumption and Production Structure of China’s Steel Industry: Current Situation and Future Development
Metals 2020, 10(3), 302; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10030302 - 26 Feb 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
China produced 49.2% of the world’s total steel production in 2017. From 1990 to 2017, the world’s total steel production increased by 850 Mt, of which 87% came from China. After 30 years of rapid expansion, China’s steel industry is not expected to [...] Read more.
China produced 49.2% of the world’s total steel production in 2017. From 1990 to 2017, the world’s total steel production increased by 850 Mt, of which 87% came from China. After 30 years of rapid expansion, China’s steel industry is not expected to increase its production in the medium and long term. In fact, the industry is currently in the stage of industrial restructuring, and great changes will arise in production structure and technical level to solve pressing issues, such as overcapacity, high energy intensity (EI), and carbon emission. These changes will directly affect the global energy consumption and carbon emissions. Thus, a review of China’s steel industry is necessary to introduce its current situation and development plan. Therefore, this paper presents an overview of the Chinese steel industry, and factors involved include steel production, production structure, energy consumption, technical level, EI, carbon emission, scrap consumption, etc. In addition, four determinants are analyzed to explain the EI gap between China and the world’s advanced level. In addition, comparison of steel industries between China and the world, development plans for energy savings, and emission reduction are also included in this paper to give readers a clear understanding of China’s steel industry. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessArticle
Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions in Ironmaking and Development of a Novel Flash Technology
Metals 2020, 10(1), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10010054 - 27 Dec 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
The issues of energy consumption and CO2 emissions of major ironmaking processes, including several new technologies, are assessed. These two issues are interconnected in that the production and use of fuels to generate energy add to the total amount of CO2 [...] Read more.
The issues of energy consumption and CO2 emissions of major ironmaking processes, including several new technologies, are assessed. These two issues are interconnected in that the production and use of fuels to generate energy add to the total amount of CO2 emissions and the efforts to sequester or convert CO2 require energy. The amounts of emissions and energy consumption in alternate ironmaking processes are compared with those for the blast furnace, currently the dominant ironmaking process. Although more than 90% of iron production is currently through the blast furnace, intense efforts are devoted to developing alternative technologies. Recent developments in alternate ironmaking processes, which are largely driven by the needs to decrease CO2 emissions and energy consumption, are discussed in this article. This discussion will include the description of the recently developed novel flash ironmaking technology. This technology bypasses the cokemaking and pelletization/sintering steps, which are pollution prone and energy intensive, by using iron ore concentrate. This transformational technology renders large energy saving and decreased CO2 emissions compared with the blast furnace process. Economic analysis indicated that this new technology, when operated using natural gas, would be economically feasible. As a related topic, we will also discuss different methods for computing process energy and total energy requirements in ironmaking. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Reuse and Recycling of By-Products in the Steel Sector: Recent Achievements Paving the Way to Circular Economy and Industrial Symbiosis in Europe
Metals 2020, 10(3), 345; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10030345 - 05 Mar 2020
Cited by 9
Abstract
Over the last few decades, the European steel industry has focused its efforts on the improvement of by-product recovery and quality, based not only on existing technologies, but also on the development of innovative sustainable solutions. These activities have led the steel industry [...] Read more.
Over the last few decades, the European steel industry has focused its efforts on the improvement of by-product recovery and quality, based not only on existing technologies, but also on the development of innovative sustainable solutions. These activities have led the steel industry to save natural resources and to reduce its environmental impact, resulting in being closer to its “zero-waste” goal. In addition, the concept of Circular Economy has been recently strongly emphasised at a European level. The opportunity is perceived of improving the environmental sustainability of the steel production by saving primary raw materials and costs related to by-products and waste landfilling. The aim of this review paper was to analyse the most recent results on the reuse and recycling of by-products of the steelmaking cycles as well as on the exploitation of by-products from other activities outside the steel production cycle, such as alternative carbon sources (e.g., biomasses and plastics). The most relevant results are identified and a global vision of the state-of-the-art is extracted, in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the main outcomes achieved by the European steel industry and of the ongoing or potential synergies with other industrial sectors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessReview
Society, Materials, and the Environment: The Case of Steel
Metals 2020, 10(3), 331; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10030331 - 02 Mar 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
This paper reviews the relationship between the production of steel and the environment as it stands today. It deals with raw material issues (availability, scarcity), energy resources, and generation of by-products, i.e., the circular economy, the anthropogenic iron mine, and the energy transition. [...] Read more.
This paper reviews the relationship between the production of steel and the environment as it stands today. It deals with raw material issues (availability, scarcity), energy resources, and generation of by-products, i.e., the circular economy, the anthropogenic iron mine, and the energy transition. The paper also deals with emissions to air (dust, Particulate Matter, heavy metals, Persistant Organics Pollutants), water, and soil, i.e., with toxicity, ecotoxicity, epidemiology, and health issues, but also greenhouse gas emissions, i.e., climate change. The loss of biodiversity is also mentioned. All these topics are analyzed with historical hindsight and the present understanding of their physics and chemistry is discussed, stressing areas where knowledge is still lacking. In the face of all these issues, technological solutions were sought to alleviate their effects: many areas are presently satisfactorily handled (the circular economy—a historical’ practice in the case of steel, energy conservation, air/water/soil emissions) and in line with present environmental regulations; on the other hand, there are important hanging issues, such as the generation of mine tailings (and tailings dam failures), the emissions of greenhouse gases (the steel industry plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050, at least in the EU), and the emission of fine PM, which WHO correlates with premature deaths. Moreover, present regulatory levels of emissions will necessarily become much stricter. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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Open AccessReview
The Challenge of Digitalization in the Steel Sector
Metals 2020, 10(2), 288; https://doi.org/10.3390/met10020288 - 21 Feb 2020
Cited by 10
Abstract
Digitalization represents a paramount process started some decades ago, but which received a strong acceleration by Industry 4.0 and now directly impacts all the process and manufacturing sectors. It is expected to allow the European industry to increase its production efficiency and its [...] Read more.
Digitalization represents a paramount process started some decades ago, but which received a strong acceleration by Industry 4.0 and now directly impacts all the process and manufacturing sectors. It is expected to allow the European industry to increase its production efficiency and its sustainability. In particular, in the energy-intensive industries, such as the steel industry, digitalization concerns the application of the related technologies to the production processes, focusing on two main often overlapping directions: Advanced tools for the optimization of the production chain and specific technologies for low-carbon and sustainable production. Furthermore, the rapid evolution of the technologies in the steel sector require the continuous update of the skills of the industrial workforce. The present review paper, resulting from a recent study developed inside a Blueprint European project, introduces the context of digitalization and some important definitions in both the European industry and the European iron and steel sector. The current technological transformation is depicted, and the main developments funded by European Research Programs are analyzed. Moreover, the impact of digitalization on the steel industry workforce are considered together with the foreseen economic developments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges and Prospects of Steelmaking Towards the Year 2050)
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