The global pandemic isn’t slowing us down from delivering a low-carbon, more sustainable future, writes Sanjeev Gupta.
With challenge, comes opportunity – and one of the positives to come from COVID-19 is the realisation we have a once-in-a-generation chance to shift our approach and thinking around manufacturing and renewable energy.
We’ve been building upon our environmentally sustainable and industry-recognised GREENSTEEL and GREENALUMINIUM practices for some time, and in early 2020 announced our commitment to progress to carbon neutrality, as a group, by 2030 (CN30).
What’s been heartening, despite the uncertainty caused by this pandemic, is to see the widening recognition, across governments and the private sector, that we need to work together to transform current manufacturing processes and practices to repair economies and achieve long-term sustainability for future generations. And, if anything, we need to accelerate our efforts to do so and prioritise the investment in low-carbon technology for heavy industry.
We’ve seen clear evidence of this with support from key stakeholders in the countries we operate in, to help bring our CN30 ambitions to life.
In a year like no other, we are off and running to reach our target.
In June this year, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Virgil-Daniel Popescu, the Minister of Economy, Energy and Business Environment, supported by Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban. The MoU incorporates GFG’s plan to install modern steel-making technologies, significantly reducing direct CO2 emissions, increasing the use of lower carbon energy sources and creating a more flexible, competitive operation.
This MoU kickstarts our CN30 push in Romania, which includes other MoUs with the national gas company, research, educational and financial institutions to support our plans to build a direct-reduced iron facility and two electric arc furnaces at Galati, where we are already making headway. Recently, our Galati team have lowered carbon emissions by 75% – along with production costs – by using an optimised mix of oxygen-enriched air, blast furnace gas and methane gas to inject into the blast furnace.
In the Czech Republic we’ve received Government approval of our Environmental Impact Assessment to implement new low carbon technologies – which include Europe’s first hybrid furnace – at our steel plant in Ostrava. The hybrid furnace, blending electric arc and traditional blast furnace steelmaking, allows us to use and recycle higher volumes of local scrap metal to produce lower-carbon steel.
In Australia, our updated Whyalla Steelworks Transformation plan includes investment in an electric arc furnace, a direct reduced-iron facility and a new state-of-the-art rolling mill. While the use of magnetite iron ore is opening the path to use low-carbon steelmaking technologies.
These global investment plans will deliver lower-carbon outcomes over the next 3-5 years and are in parallel to our ongoing work in the renewable energy sector.
We will soon get underway with construction of the Cultana Solar Farm, near Whyalla, which will be one of the largest solar farm initiatives in Australia and generate up to 280 MW of solar energy.
At SIMEC Atlantis Energy’s Uskmouth Power Station, in South Wales, we recently celebrated a milestone achievement – where we successfully completed industrial-scale combustion testing of waste-derived fuel pellets to be used at the converted power-station, formerly powered by coal. The completion of this power station conversion project will enable the launch of our 2m mt scrap-based EAF at Newport, creating a new GREENSTEEL Hub.
Through SIMEC Atlantis Energy – part of the GFG Alliance – we have the largest tidal energy project in the world and are well positioned to assist the UK Government in their new push on green energy technologies.
These initiatives build upon our established reputation as a sustainable industry group. Our hydro-powered Lochaber Aluminium smelter, located in the Scottish Highlands, continues to produce low-carbon aluminium.
And we continue to explore breakthrough technologies and use of green hydrogen in steel making. If we get the process right, the byproduct is water.
The race towards CN30 is well and truly underway. And it’s a race worth winning – as the outcome or prize for our economies and society is immense.
We have the chance to change our sectors, and pass on a more sustainable world, and more sustainable industries, that our children and future generations can be proud of.