European steel industry committed to reducing CO2 emissions

The European Steel Technology Platform (ESTEP) decided, on 27th February 2008, to launch a second phase of the Ultra Low CO2 Steelmaking research programme. ULCOS-II will be the world’s most ambitious Research and Development (R&D) effort to reduce process-related CO2 emissions in steelmaking. The current ULCOS project brings together steelmakers, companies in the steel supply chain, research laboratories and universities to devise the breakthrough technologies that can bring about enhanced reductions in CO2 emissions from steelmaking, with almost €30m of funding already allocated from the EU's research programmes, including the Coal and Steel Research Fund managed by the European Commission. The next phase will require significant levels of investment – the first industrial-scale demonstration is estimated at €300 m.

The European steel industry has cut emissions by 50% over the last 40 years. As carbon-based technologies approach their physical limits with respect to energy efficiency, the steel industry has decided to invest in long term R&D to come up with breakthrough technologies to decrease CO2 emissions in steelmaking even more drastically. It was for this reason that the European Steel Technology Platform was launched, with the support of the European Commission, at the beginning of 2003. ULCOS, carried out by a consortium of 48 European partners, is the most important collaborative project implemented under the umbrella of FP6 and the Research Fund of Coal and Steel (RFCS).

A strategy has been put into place to achieve the challenging objectives of ULCOS that first validates process concepts and then demonstrates at pilot-scale the feasibility of the most promising. Four breakthrough "routes", with the potential to cut emissions by a factor of two or more in the long term have been selected for further research from a possible 80. Following a study looking ahead until 2050, the four selected process candidates will be tested. They each need to be further evaluated in detail with regard to their technological, process, economical and environmental performance.

The so-called ULCOS-II programme, which was given the go-ahead, 27th February 2008 by the Technology platform, will set up several larger scale pilots to test the most promising medium/long term technologies on an industrial scale. Except when carbon-lean electricity is massively available, all breakthrough routes will need to be coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS), a concept which will have to be adapted cleverly to the particular features of the sector. The first technology to be evaluated on an industrial scale will be based on the Blast Furnace technology with Top Gas Recycling (TGR-BF) and CCS.

This research will require considerable investment, with a price tag of about 300m€ for the implementation of the TGR-BF route. The outcome of this research will be technology for CO2 capture, transport and storage in steelmaking, thus allowing CO2-free steelmaking for the first time. This technology will be developed in line with EU objectives on CO2 capture and storage and its public acceptance. The European Steel Technology Platform will work closely with the European Zero Emissions Technology Platform, which is also focusing on research into CO2 capture, transport and storage.

More information
For further information visit the ESTEP website