Steelmaking scrap levels drive carbon dioxide reduction

Significant carbon dioxide (CO2) and environmental benefits are being realised at our steelmaking plant in Scunthorpe thanks to the increased use of recycled scrap – and plans are afoot to boost this further.

British Steel uses the Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) process to make steel at its Scunthorpe site by blowing oxygen at supersonic speeds through a carefully controlled mixture of hot metal (iron) and scrap additions. Increasing the use of scrap in this process not only makes a positive contribution to the circular economy, it’s helping support the company’s drive to reduce the site’s CO2 emissions. And with further big investments planned for 2021, these environmental benefits are set to grow.

Lee Adcock, Group Environment Manager, said: “One of our actions to reduce CO2 emissions has been to increase scrap usage in our steelmaking process and in 2020 we saw a significant increase in these scrap levels.

“Following methodology from the international standard ISO 14021 to measure and assess the recycled content of our steel products, we achieved an average of 26%*1 recycled content in our products over the year. As a result, we reduced the CO2 intensity of our Scunthorpe site by 5%.”

And there are positive signs for the future too as this trend in rising scrap usage is expected to continue when further infrastructure investments come on line, including major plans for a scrap preheating facility.

David Abramson, Environmental Manager at Steelmaking, said: “Thermodynamic limits mean there is a ceiling on the percentage of scrap we can use. By investing in a scrap preheater, which will heat scrap to 800°C, we’ll be able to increase our scrap charge even more and deliver further environmental and cost benefits.”

This investment follows on the back of big strides previously taken at the steelmaking plant. David said: “We’ve already invested in our infrastructure so we could increase the use of scrap in our total charge weight and better manage energy requirements. We’re now operating at charge levels 3%*2 higher than we were in 2019/20 and our plan for the coming year is to increase this further.

“With increased volumes of steel manufactured, increasing levels of scrap and reduced energy consumption, this all adds up to a more efficient and cost-effective production route.”

Careful monitoring of the steelmaking process means the increasing levels of scrap do not affect the steel quality – scrap supplied to the site as well as that recycled internally is scrutinised to ensure it’s the right quality prior to charging into the converters. David added: “Real-time monitoring of the steel in the converters during production enables our expert operators to adjust the ‘ingredients’ to ensure adherence to customers’ specifications.

“The changes we’ve implemented and delivering the investment projects we have in the pipeline promise an exciting and positive future.”

*1 as defined by ISO 14021 (% of output material)
*2 expressed as a % of charged material into the steelmaking process