The third commitment in the common 2050 vision of the Swedish steel industry, Steel Shapes a Better Future, involves creating environmental benefits. No other than products useful for the society shall leave our companies.
Ecological sustainability is required in order to achieve economic and social sustainability. Clean water, air and food, in sufficient quantities for the world’s population, are fundamental for all development. The UN therefore sets ambitious development goals in these fields. This involves countering climate change, conserving our seas, lakes and resources, protecting land-based ecosystems and stopping the loss of biological diversity.
The UN also sets goals for achieving sustainable production and consumption. The earth’s population must give up living in a way that puts a strain on – and exhausts – its available resources; we must learn to farm the earth’s resources not despoil them.
The steel industry has set demanding goals for itself and works consciously to reduce emissions, preserve ecosystem functions and to stop the ongoing loss of biological diversity. A major focus for its efforts lies on having the products of its enterprise contribute to a sustainable resource utilisation, ensuring that these products shall have a long useful life, comprise recyclable material and enable the environmental technologies of the future.
Learn more about ecosystem services and biological diversity
Steel creates environmental benefit
Environmental impact evaluation with life cycle perspective
The life cycle for a product made of steel encompasses the whole chain extending from raw material extraction and steel production, utilisation of the steel in different products, to recycling and melting into new steel. All transport journeys from the raw material phase up to recycling are also included.
When one grasps the life cycle as a whole e.g. for a lighter, stronger steel with longer service life, there is an increase in resource efficiency, the environmental burden diminishes and thereby the environmental benefit is created which means that steel contributes to a sustainable development of the society.
Learn more: Steel creates environmental benefit, fact sheets
Examples of where steels benefit the environment
Where steel structures are concerned, the material’s strength is of great importance. The strength of the steel is determined by its mechanical properties, e.g. static and tensile strength, dynamic yield strength, fatigue strength and impact toughness.
Where the strength of the steel is doubled, the weight of the steel structure is reduced by about 30 per cent, compared with a structure of conventional (ordinary) steel.
Lighter structures lead to less environmental impact in several ways e.g. in the form of lower emissions – both when the steel is being produced and when it is subsequently transported – greater energy efficiency and a more sensitive management of natural resources.
SSAB's concept Eco Upgraded upgrades the material and design of applications. The benefits of upgrading to high-strength steel include reduced weight, improved fuel economy and extended product lifetime – all of which significantly contribute to reducing a product’s carbon footprint.
The EcoUpgraded concept aims to identify applications that show promise for reducing carbondioxide emissions during use. Looking at each specific application, SSAB can compare the potential carbondioxide savings in its use phase to the carbondioxide emitted during production, thereby identifying products that would benefit the most from an upgrade to high-strength steel.
Learn more: SSAB Eco upgrade (ssab.com)
Some examples of how the steel industry’s products create the environmental benefit during the use phase
Sandvik Materials Technology produces e.g. fuel cell material and applications for energy optimisation. More than 60 per cent of the sales relate to energy or energy efficiency. Sandvik Materials Technology, for example, produces seamless tubes which can withstand significantly higher pressures in today and tomorrow’s generation internal combustion engines. This contributes to reductions in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions from vehicles. During 2014 Sandvik Materials Technology and Sandviken municipality carried out a pilot project involving the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Sandviken. The only emissions from the vehicles are water!
Find out more about the project with the fuel cell vehicles (smt.sandvik.com)
Sandvik Materials Technology also produces precision strip steel which is specially designed for the manufacture of compressor valves for next-generation compressors, which are used in air condition systems in the car industry and in refrigerators, i.e. devices where heat is converted to cooling. From an environmental point of view Sandvik HiflexTM contribute to enhancing compressor efficiency and a more efficient use of energy. The material thus prolonges compressor life (eller: extends the life of the compressor) and can also help to reduce noise levels.
Learn more: High-performing compressors raise the chill factor (www.materials.sandvik)
Fagersta Stainless makes stainless wire which, for example, is used to strengthen high-voltage cables from an offshore wind farm at Burbo Bank in Liverpool Bay (UK). The cables are supplied by ABB High Voltage Cables in Karlskrona. The wind farm is expected to meet the energy needs of 240 000 households.
Find out more about the cable order and the wind farm (abb.se)
SSAB's new high-strength structural steel is used to build safer, lighter and more fuel-efficient cars. A car body made of this steel is 39 per cent lighter than e.g. aluminium and other materials; it will meet the requirements that enter into force in 2020 for a modern, eco-sensitive electric car.
Examples of various advantages and applications in high strength steel (ssab.com)
Outokumpu makes duplex stainless steels that have been used for the outer surface layer in the world’s first boat, built wholly out of stainless steel. This boat possesses many environmental advantages: it is lighter than corresponding models in aluminium and it consumes only half so much fuel; it is also very hardy, wholly maintenance-free and fully recyclable.
Find out more about stainless steel boats (ssy.se)
Höganäs AB is currently running a research project together with the Swedish Energy Agency to investigate whether biomass can be used as fuel and raw material in the production of iron powder. The project will investigate whether wood chips, straw and waste can replace natural gas and coke.
Press release on the project, in Swedish (cision.com/hoganas)
Examples of investments for energy efficiency and reduced emissions.
All Swedish steel companies are actively working to reduce emissions to air, land and water and to optimise their energy use.
Ramnäs Bruk has converted its heat treatment process from oil to natural gas and the waste heat arising from the manufacture of anchor chains and mooring system accessories is also put to good use. The waste heat is used to heat the company premises, which means that the oil-fired boiler which was previously used for this purpose could be scrapped. The results from these measures are seen in terms of 25 per cent lower carbon dioxide emissions and 4 GWh of lower energy consumption in the facilities.
Find out more about energy recovery at Ramnäs (mynewsdesk.com/malarenergi)
Uddeholms AB is investing many millions of Swedish crowns in improvements to the working environment and the outdoor environment also. A new flue gas filter and a new canopy hood on the steel plant roof will lead to an improvement in the working environment and the indoor climate inside the steel plant. At the same time, the outside noise level and dust emissions are reduced.
Read more about investments made by Uddeholms on behalf of the environment, in Swedish (vf.se)