ArcelorMittal to transform CO2 into biofuel
On its Belgium site in Ghent, steel industry giant ArcelorMittal is building a CO2 transformation plant. By 2021, 10% of gases produced by the high furnaces will be transformed into 80 million litres of biofuel. This amounts to the same CO2 levels as 100.000 cars. A pilot project also plans on replacing coal by wood waste to feed the furnaces.
Steel production creates huge quantities of greenhouse gases. Every year in Ghent, the production of 5,5 million tons of steel rejects 9,6 million tons of CO2. This sole plant produces by itself 8% of Belgium’s greenhouse gas emissions, which amounts to more than all gases produced by all of the country’s trucks and buses. Part of the carbon resulting from the steel production is burnt by the Knippegroen Electrabel plant. Something has to be done.
80 million litres of biofuel
As of now, cranes and diggers are creating the foundation of a future CO2 transformation site beside the Ghent steel plant. When finished, it will be composed of some 30-meter-high water reservoirs filled with bacteria. In these big bioreactors, CO2 will be transformed into bioethanol that can later be used by the transport sector or for the production of plastic.
By 2021, 10% of gases produced by the high furnaces will be transformed into 80 million litres of biofuel. “That will allow us to reduce our yearly emissions by 150.000 tons of CO2, which amounts to converting 100.000 cars to electricity”, explains Worldwide Technology Strategy Manager for ArcelorMittal, Carl De Mare.
It’s not yet possible to transform all CO2 produced by the Ghent plant into biofuel. Therefore, ArcelorMittal is studying the possibility to inject back part of the production into the high furnaces. The rest could be used by neighbouring chemical companies or stocked into dedicated tanks.
‘Already the best installation in the world’
The steel company also insists that while its Ghent plant produces a lot of CO2, it stands as one of the world’s best-performing steel production plants with emissions already 20% lower than EU average and 33% lower than the worldwide average. “Nevertheless, we need to stop burning the carbon resulting from the steel production process and throwing it into the atmosphere”, adds Mr De Mare.
A pilot project takes ecological ambitions higher. The plan is to replace the coal currently used to heat up the high furnaces by wood waste from recycling parks. “If we combine this to the biofuel production, by 2021 we could reduce our CO2 emissions by 400.000 tons”, adds the Strategy Manager, “and if we apply it where it’s possible, our global emissions could be reduced by 4 million tons.”
Competition from China
The Ghent’s biofuel production plant is a world’s first for which ArcelorMittal invested 150 million euro. “With all these environmentally friendly projects, we will be able to reach the climate objectives and reduce our emissions by 80% in 2050”, explains Carl De Mare, “we are investing and we are convinced that we could arrive at a carbon-neutral steel production method.”
Yet, the company worries about competition from the Far East. “If a carbon tax is put on European steel production, there should also be one on imported steel from China”, adds the Strategy Manager. “It makes no sense to close the steel factories in Europe and ignore the CO2 emissions of Chinese steel production.”