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How to Radically Reduce Steel's CO2 Emissions

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have developed an innovative method for existing furnaces that could reduce steelmaking’s CO2 emission by nearly 90% and save manufacturers a fortune.

Steel blast furnace

Due to the inherently carbon-intensive nature of steel production in blast furnaces, the iron and steel industry accounts for a whopping 9% of global emissions.

In blast furnace steel manufacturing, coke (a type of coal) is used to produce metallic iron from ore obtained from mining - which releases enormous amounts of CO2 in the process. According to Dr Harriet Kildahl, who co-devised the method with Professor Yulong Ding, their technology converts this carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide that can be reused in the iron ore reaction.

This is realised using a thermochemical cycle which performs chemical reactions through changes in temperature. That way, the typically damaging CO2 is turned into a useful part of the reaction, forming “an almost perfect closed carbon loop.” This drastically reduces emissions by the amount of coke needed and, subsequently, lowers steelmaking’s emissions by up to 88%.

The researchers say that if this method was implemented in the remaining two blast furnaces in the UK, it could save £1.28 billion in 5 years, all while reducing the country’s overall emissions by 2.9%. Imagine what the savings and CO2 emission reductions would be on a worldwide basis!

University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a patent application covering the system and its use in metal production.



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