Steel plant emissions

Steel production leads to certain airborne emissions. The steel industry works continuously to minimise the environmental impact in different ways. Within several important areas the emissions have declined significantly.

To manufacture steel requires very high temperatures for both smelting and processing. These combustion processes imply some emissions of nitrogen oxides and dust, for example. The steel industry, over a long period, has worked to reduce emissions through different measures:

  • More efficient use of energy.
  • Modified production processes.
  • Cleaning equipment.

Emissions to the environment from the processes persist but have declined considerably within several important areas. The diagrams below illustrate, on the one hand, the total emissions per year (left axis and the bars) and, on the other hand, the specific emissions i.e. the emissions per tonne of crude steel production (right axis and the curve). 

Nitrogen oxides

High temperatures mean that the formation of nitrogen oxides is hard to avoid in connection with the combustion of fuel since the nitrogen is in the air. Emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen, however, with the aid of new burner technology, the cleaning of exhaust gases and acid recovery methods in the pickling process.

Emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the Swedish iron and steel industry. 
Emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the Swedish iron and steel industry.

Dust 

Dust is formed in many of the steel industry’s processes. Cleaning technology, filtration and ventilation systems have meant that dust emissions have been substantially reduced. The dust is reprocessed for the sake of the metal content that is then reused in the blast furnace process.

Emission of dust from the Swedish  iron and steel industry.
Emission of dust from the Swedish  iron and steel industry.

Sulphur dioxide

Emissions of sulphur dioxide are directly related to the combustion of oil in reheating furnaces and for coke production. Oils with lower sulphur content, a greater use of gas and improved cleaning processes have all served to minimise steel plant emissions.

Emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2) from the Swedish iron and steel industry.Emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2) from the Swedish iron and steel industry.