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Addressing the carbon challenge

David Clarke, ArcelorMittal’s head of strategy and chief technology officer, highlights the impact materials have on our planet, and how are we to mitigate the risks, while responding to the global demand for steel.



Materials are an integral part of modern society, human development and well-being. Today, main material groups production globally account for over 10 per cent of global emissions. The majority of these emissions come from using mostly carbon-based energy to transform primary raw material sources into the materials we use. 

Materials demand is forecast to continue growing for several decades. In the long-term, once there is sufficient stock of steel to meet the needs of a fully developed world, the majority of steel products can be made from recycled secondary sources. But until then primary sources will continue to be essential to meet the world’s material needs. Thus a key challenge for materials producers is to lower the carbon footprint of materials produced to ensure materials production contributes to meeting Paris agreement targets.

Steel is increasingly a key enabler as a core material in many technologies leading global CO2 emission reductions.  It is estimated that the CO2 emission reductions enabled by steel outweigh emissions from steel production by six to one. But although less carbon emitting from primary sources per application than other material groups, the large volumes of steel production globally mean that the industry contributes over three gigatons of CO2 emissions annually. 

Adopting low emissions technologies

The steel industry therefore faces the challenge of reducing CO2 emissions in line with the ambition of the Paris Agreement whilst at the same time responding to the growing demand for steel. While continued energy efficiency gains, yield improvement and an accelerated shift to a circular economy will all help, achieving this goal will also require the adoption of low emissions technologies.

There are a number of different potential routes including the use of circular carbon, the use of clean power and the use of carbon capture and storage. Circular carbon effectively uses the sustainable carbon from bio-waste resulting in low emissions iron and steelmaking. The steel sector has the potential to be one of the most energy efficient users of circular carbon. Clean power used as the energy source for hydrogen-based ironmaking and longer term through direct electrolysis ironmaking, would also lead to low emissions steelmaking. Fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage would enable the continued use of the existing iron and steelmaking footprint but would require the creation of a large-scale infrastructure network for the transport and storage of CO2.

Trial projects

At ArcelorMittal we are maintaining a flexible technology innovation roadmap. That means we have projects trialling circular carbon, clean energy and also carbon capture. For example in Ghent in Belgium we will be using bio-coal from waste wood to displace the coal currently injected in the blast furnace. Also in Ghent we are partnering with Lanzatech to capture waste gases and convert them into ethanol. In Dunkirk we have an industrial pilot to capture CO2 supported by the French administration. In Hamburg we have started the study of a large demonstration project for hot hydrogen injection in our DRI plant. And in our R&D labs in France we are working on iron electrolysis.

As all of the low emissions technology pathways identified lead to structurally higher operating costs in steelmaking, policies that ensure steelmakers adopting low emission steelmaking technologies can fairly compete with the existing steelmaking asset base will be essential for a viable transition to low emissions iron and steel production. Steel is a globally traded material and not all countries and regions are moving at the same pace when it comes to carbon regulation. Provided that can be adequately addressed steel can make an important contribution to reducing global carbon emissions and delivering on the Paris agreement.


More information on our 2018 annual review website:

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