The steel industry is an essential part of modern society. Economically, the U.S. steel industry produces goods valued at more than $100 billion a year and employs more than 80,000 people. The steel industry is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. On average, 1.85 tons of CO2 are emitted for every ton of steel produced. Overall, the steel industry generates between 7 and 9% of the direct emissions that come from the global use of fossil fuel.
The industry is determined to reduce its environmental impact. Steel is 100% recyclable and indeed much of it is recycled. Over 2 billion tons of steel were produced in 2019. Meanwhile, more than 700 million tons of steel scrap are recycled each year. Recycling greatly reduces the energy impact of the steel industry.
The industry has also significantly reduced its energy usage over the years using sophisticated energy management systems and energy recovery efforts. Since 1960, the amount of energy needed to produce a ton of steel has dropped by 60%. But making steel is still very energy intensive.
Recently, Lightsource bp announced that its 300 megawatt Bighorn Solar project in Colorado will be used to allow EVRAZ’s Pueblo steel mill to be the world’s first steel mill to run almost entirely on solar power.
The solar project, which will be fully online this month, is the largest on-site solar facility in the U.S. dedicated to a single customer. (The Bighorn Solar project features 750,000 solar panels located on 1,800 acres).
The project demonstrates that even challenging industrial sectors can be decarbonized when companies work together on innovative solutions.
Photo, posted October 16, 2017, courtesy of UC Davis College of Engineering via Flickr.