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UK steelmaking could be jeopardised unless new, clean technologies are progressed, EAC argues

1 June 2022

With new technologies to decarbonise steelmaking, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has said that domestic UK steel production will be at risk unless the Government develops its strategy to encourage more research and development in emerging decarbonised technologies. These could facilitate the end for coking coal in UK steelmaking in coming decades.

The EAC has held a short inquiry considering the decarbonisation of the UK steel industry, which currently amounts to 14% of the UK’s industrial emissions. Members took written and oral evidence from the sector about the opportunities associated with new technologies, and the challenges that lay ahead for them.

EAC members heard that Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) and Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) methods could allow the sector to move away from the use of coking coal for steelmaking, supporting the sector to decarbonise well before 2050. For example, in efforts to reduce dramatically their emissions, British Steel set out its plans to convert an existing blast furnace to an electric arc furnace by 2035.

The Committee heard that Government initiatives to decarbonisation steel production lacked ambition compared with other countries. Steel sector representatives expressed concern that unless the Government was forthcoming with a clear strategy supported by funding to drive progress in clean steel technologies, the UK might have to rely more heavily on steel imports in the future. Members heard that the industry urgently needs clarity on future Government support for its energy costs in order to start committing to power-intensive green steel technologies and to have the hope of remaining competitive in the global market.

The Government has supported creating a demand for UK made steel, but, as the Committee warns BEIS Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng in a letter published today, its ambitions may not come to fruition if there continues to be uncertainty around the pathway to decarbonising the UK steel industry.

Chair's comment

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:

“From cars to building frames, ships to wind turbines, we rely heavily on steel. But steel production is highly energy-intensive and a significant emitter. As technologies advance in other countries, a way must be found to decarbonise the sector for Net Zero Britain.

“Our Committee heard that the steel sector has the opportunity to move away from a heavy emitter towards championing clean tech as it adjusts towards eventually becoming a low carbon industry. This is exactly the transition we must be focussing on as the net zero deadline of 2050 approaches. To make this a reality, the Government must set clear demand signals and invest properly in research and development so that industry can adopt alternative methods to manufacturing steel that is not such a carbon intensive process.

“Coking coal, essential in current steel-making, may become a thing of the past. We heard evidence that there will be limited domestic demand from any new coking coal mine.”

Further information

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