The Clean Energy Transition Institute, in collaboration with SEI-US, and under the direction of Derik Broekhoff, produced a Washington State Industrial Emissions Analysis for the Washington Department of Commerce in July 2021.
This Clean Materials Manufacturing project expanded upon that analysis for six manufacturing sectors—aluminum, concrete and cement, glass, iron and steel, pulp and paper, and wood products—to provide background material for Building Washington’s Clean Materials Manufacturing Economy.
You will find the iron and steel manufacturing sector documents below:
Steel is the most-used metal in the world and is found in buildings, infrastructure, transportation vehicles, appliances, machines, and more.1 Steel is produced from both virgin materials (primary iron extracted from iron ore) and secondary materials (scrap). After crude steel is cast, additional processes convert the steel to finished products at forges.
Nucor Steel in Seattle is Washington’s only producer of crude steel with annual carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions of over 10,000 metric tons.2 The facility produces some of the lowest embodied carbon steel in the world, 3 relying exclusively on recycled scrap steel to make rebar, flat bar, channels, and similar products. Washington’s one major forge, Jorgensen Forge, was based in Tukwila but closed in 2018, with its final emissions reporting year in 2019. Together, the steel mill and forge accounted for roughly 180,000 metric tons of CO2e in 2019. 4
The iron and steel industry globally uses three dominant production pathways, each with slightly different emissions sources. Nucor Steel in Seattle uses the Scrap-EAF production pathway, which produces recycled steel from scrap materials melted in a furnace that uses an electric arc (EAF). This production process produces lower emissions than the other two, but there are still emissions from electricity generation and process emissions from consuming carbon-containing electrodes and from scrap oxidizing.
Decarbonization strategies for the iron and steel industry will initially involve incremental emissions reduction strategies, such as material efficiency, technology performance improvements, and fuel shifting away from coal to less carbon-intensive alternatives, including natural gas and bioenergy.5 Already high recycling rates and growing steel demand mean that increased recycling has a limited role in decarbonization. 6
Full decarbonization of the iron and steel industry will rely on a mix of carbon capture (though implementation may be operationally challenging due to the number of different point sources of emissions at steel mills) and maturation of innovative steelmaking approaches, including many that use hydrogen.7
The iron and steel industry directly employs over 1,000 workers in Washington.
1 Jonathan Maes, “18 Different Types of Metal (Facts and Uses),” Make It From Metal (blog), accessed May 13, 2022, https://makeitfrommetal.com/different-types-of-metal-facts-and-uses/.
2 Washington State Department of Ecology, “Facility Greenhouse Gas Reports,” accessed April 11, 2022, https://ecology.wa.gov/Air-Climate/Climate-change/Tracking-greenhouse-gases/Greenhouse-gas-reporting/Facility-greenhouse-gas-reports.
3 Building Transparency, “EC3 - Find & Compare Materials,” accessed April 13, 2022, https://buildingtransparency.org/ec3/material-search.
4 Washington State Department of Ecology.
5 International Energy Agency, “Iron and Steel Technology Roadmap - Towards More Sustainable Steelmaking,” October 2020, https://www.iea.org/reports/iron-and-steel-technology-roadmap.
6 International Energy Agency.
7 Leeson, Duncan, Niall Mac Dowell, Niilay Shah, Camille Petit, and Paul S. Fennell. “A Techno-Economic Analysis and Systematic Review of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Applied to the Iron and Steel, Cement, Oil Refining and Pulp and Paper Industries, as Well as Other High Purity Sources.” International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control 61 (June 1, 2017): 71–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijggc.2017.03.020.