Researchers at the University of Birmingham have laid out a new, closed loop retrofit for industrial iron and steel furnaces that could reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90 percent. If successfully implemented, the novel approach could be a gamechanger for some of the world’s most pesky polluters.
Steelmaking is one of modern society’s literal building blocks, but it comes at steep environmental costs—today, the iron and steel industries compose nearly 10 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. The issues stem from traditional blast furnace operations, which requires distilling coal in coke ovens which eventually produce carbon monoxide. Once the coke interacts with iron ore in the furnace, its resultant “top gas” composed mainly of CO, CO2, and N2 is then burned to raise its air blast temperature as high as 1350C, with leftover pollutants released into the outside air.
According to researchers, if their method is implemented in the UK’s two remaining blast furnace plants, it could save over $1.5 billion within 5 years while reducing the country’s overall emissions by nearly 3 percent. Extrapolate that to the global steel and iron industries, and it’s easy to imagine how this could provide a huge boost towards our transition towards greener infrastructure.