European Consortium to Start Work on Steel Production Processes with Reduced CO2 Emissions

A consortium of 48 European companies and organizations has entered into an agreement to launch a cooperative Research and Development initiative aim-ing at searching for new steel production processes that would drastically reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions of the sector. The initiative will start with a five year exploratory phase, which should be followed by a pilot phase lasting for another five years before a first commercial implementation can be considered.

The consortium is called ULCOS, an acronym for "Ultra Low CO2 Steelmaking".

Led by a core-group of steel producers comprising Arcelor, Corus, ThyssenKrupp Stahl, Riva, Voestalpine, Saarstahl and Dillinger Hüttenwerke, and the ore and pellet producer LKAB, the con-sortium is further composed of:

  • Other steel producers: SSAB and Ruukki,
  • Suppliers to the steel industry, from electricity and energy producers to plant and equip-ment manufacturers: L'Air Liquide, Danieli-Corus, EDF, Ferrostaal, Küttner, Lhoist, Paul Wurth, Statoil, VAI,
  • Research institutes: Alphea, Armines, BFI, BRGM, CIRAD, CRM, CSM, ECN, GEUS, CSIC/INCAR, IPTS, MEFOS, SINTEF, SINTEF-Petroleum, Tecnalia,
    Small and medium businesses: Europlasma, GVS, Metalysis, BTG,
  • Universities: University of Aveiro, Portugal, LEPII, University of Grenoble, France, Uni-versity of Kassel, Germany, University of Leoben, Austria, Institut Polytechnique de Nancy, France, University of Luleå, Sweden, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway, SSSA, Pisa, Italy.

Arcelor is the consortium's coordinator.

The consortium has answered a dedicated call from the European Commission (EC) for Priority 3 of the 6th Framework Program ( euro 20 million of EC funding) in the area of "Very low CO2 Steel Processes", in co-ordination with the 2003 and 2004 calls of the Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS ) ( euro 5 million of EC funding) and proposed complementary projects under both pro-grams. The two projects have been approved and have started on the 1st of July 2004 for the RFCS project and on the 1st of September 2004 for the 6th Framework Program. Together, they constitute the ULCOS Research Program of the consortium. The advancements of the projects will be followed by the Industrial Technologies Research Directorate units of the European Com-mission.

This R&D program aims at finding innovative, breakthrough solutions to further decrease the CO2 emissions of the steel industry. The expected target is a significant reduction of specific CO2 emissions as compared to those of a modern blast furnace. Within five years, the project is to deliver a concept process route, based on iron ore, with a verification of its feasibility in terms of technology, economic projections and social acceptability.

ULCOS will examine a set of breakthrough concepts for making steel that have the potential of reducing the specific CO2 emissions of the steel industry by 30 percent to 70 percent. One tech-nology is based on the recycling of blast furnace top gas after decarbonatation. CO2 capture and storage technologies can be added. Other breakthrough and radical technologies are also exam-ined. They include electrolysis, use of hydrogen, use of carbon and natural gas with CO2 capture and sequestration in reactors different from the blast furnace, utilization of biomass.

At the end of this first phase one or more appropriate projects will be selected for further evalua-tion based upon technical and economic considerations.

The selected projects would then enter a pilot phase that would last another five years to finally confirm their technical and economic viability.

The ULCOS program is part of a multidisciplinary steel research platform co-financed by the in-novation programs of the European Commission officially launched on 12 March 2004. The report of the Group of Personalities of the Steel Technology Platform identified the need for the sustain-ability of steel production to be enhanced through massive reductions in CO2 emissions. This is an ambitious requirement, as the integrated steel production route generates about two tons of CO2 per ton of steel. An intense effort by the industry has allowed to reduce the energy require-ments of steel mills: specific energy consumption has thus gone down by 60 percent in the last 40 years, while the total CO2 emissions of the steel industry were reduced by 50 percent over the same period.

To go beyond these major achievements and decrease emissions by a significant factor in line with the probable post-Kyoto requirements for the future, the steel industry needs to develop new process paradigms based on breakthrough technologies.

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