EU mills fail to find common ground on specifications of low-CO2 steel: EUROMETAL conference

European flat steel producers present at the EUROMETAL Regional Meeting Nordics in Stockholm this week had drastically different views on the definition of carbon-accounted steel, according to speakers and audience members during discussions at the event.

Mark Bula, chief commercial officer at H2 Green Steel

Mark Bula, chief commercial officer at H2 Green Steel, a brand-new hydrogen-fueled steel mill project in Sweden, said: “There is no definition of green steel”, after an audience member asked for clarifications on the specifications for “green steel”.

Thomas Hörnfeldt, vice president for Sustainability & Public Affairs at Sweden’s SSAB

Thomas Hörnfeldt, vice president for Sustainability & Public Affairs at Sweden’s SSAB, responded to a similar request by saying that fossil-free steel needs to have a zero-carbon footprint, including power and transportation.

Meanwhile, a representative of Tata Steel in the Netherlands reported that the answer is more complicated and depends on the demands of the customers and that the most common request the company has seen is a 30% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

Jaap-Jan Aardenburg, Distribution Marketing Manager at Tata Steel Europe

The majority of EU mills are aiming to launch projects, including the use of hydrogen and electric-arc furnaces (EAFs) to meet toughening CO2 requirements and also to fulfil the growing needs of buyers, including in the automotive industry, for steel products with a low or zero-carbon footprint.

In addition, before the zero-carbon target can be met, more steel products with reduced carbon content will be offered to the market, sources said.

The availability of carbon-accounted steel remains low as the majority of steelmaking projects are still under development or in the process of construction and existing EAF-based mills have just started to receive EPD certifications. But the availability of low-carbon material is still expected to grow in the next few years, first increasing its share in long-term contracts and then entering the spot market.

The seeming absence of a unified approach amongst mills as to a definition for the product resulted in a heated discussion among the conference participants.

John Armstrong, CEO of Reibus International

Some distributors, including John Armstrong, CEO of Reibus International, said that a new way of certification is needed, allowing the carbon footprint of the product to be seen.

In addition, the environmental product declarations (EPD) used now might not meet all the requirements of the distributors, according to the event participants.

EPD was described as being a “step in the right direction,” by one of the mills. But this certification system was also reported to lack strict standards and it could not serve as a long-term solution when more carbon-accounted steel becomes available in the spot market.

According to the Phase 4, under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), free EU Allowance (EUA), is 1.4 mt CO2 for each mt of hot metal, sintering and met coke production (Scope 1, 2). Emissions for European HRC producers are typically 2.0 mt CO2 or greater.

Maria Tanatar, S&P Platts