Delivering the science and engineering research required to create carbon-neutral, resource-efficient UK steel supply chains.

SUSTAIN Steel's story

Steel production is an energy-intensive process as it requires high temperatures to transform iron ore into steel. The energy and heat from the processes come from fossil fuels, primarily coal (which is both a feedstock and a fuel). As a result, the amount of CO2 emissions from steel manufacturing is almost double the amount of steel created: 1.9 tonnes of carbon per 1 tonne of steel. If steel were a nation, it would be the fifth largest producer of carbon emissions in the world.

SUSTAIN is a research hub focused on sustainable steel manufacturing, with a seven-year research horizon. During this time frame, the hub aims to deliver the science and engineering research required to create carbon neutral, resource-efficient UK steel supply chains – and with it, high-value jobs and investment to the UK.

Six UK universities are currently involved, across three locations – Swansea, Sheffield and Warwick. They are addressing two ‘grand challenges’: carbon neutral steelmaking and smart steel processing. The first is to develop innovative methods to eliminate the carbon footprint of the steelmaking processes and hence provide a sustainable method of production for a carbon neutral industry. The second is to develop smart tracking technologies into the established supply chain and customer base – describing the manufacturing process and tracing sourced materials on a product-by-product basis – and give end customers full confidence in product performance, ethical raw material sourcing, production and carbon footprint.

To develop systems for carbon neutral iron and steelmaking, and create a commercially viable green steel market, a collaborative approach is critical by research bodies, industry, government and end customers – working locally, nationally and internationally.

Useful learnings from SUSTAIN Steel

Steel is one of the world’s most sustainable materials: forever reusable and the most recycled substance on the planet. Building a more sustainable production process is an investment that will yield enormous environmental benefits over the full lifecycle of green steel.

As companies face more pressure to reduce their scope 3 emissions, demand for low-carbon supplies, including steel, is growing. In particular, car manufacturers (which account for 12% of the world’s steel use) are accelerating decarbonisation initiatives and seeking cleaner inputs.

Given the relatively large carbon footprint of steel production, even small steps will make a big difference in moving the industry closer to carbon neutrality.

SUSTAIN Steel's metrics

To implement world-leading intelligent infrastructure by 2030.
To double steel GVA (Gross Value Added) by 2030.
To develop systems for carbon neutral iron and steelmaking by 2040.
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