Steel industry's key to sustainability is shift from theory to application

Oct 31, 2011 | 07:00 PM | Bill Beck

Tags  sustainability, Richard J. Fruehan, Carnegie-Mellon University Center for Iron and Steel Research, Donald Fosnacht, Center for Applied Research and Technology Development at the Natural Resources Research Institute, Bill Beck

Maintaining and improving sustainability in steel in the 21st Century will depend on the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the mill floor, according to many industry players.

But with a few exceptions, that technology, at least for the foreseeable future, will lead to incremental advancements rather than revolutionary new processes. And because steel is so capital-intensive, industry leaders will have to be convinced of the economic benefits of investing millions, if not billions, of dollars in new, sustainable technologies.

"Nobody is green for the sake of being green," said Richard J. Fruehan, co-director of Carnegie-Mellon University’s Center for Iron and Steel Research in Pittsburgh. "There has got to be an economic incentive."

For many steelmakers, the economic incentive to do things differently came with an unprecedented increase in ferrous scrap prices. In 2008, prime industrial scrap surged to around $900 per ton, shocking scrap buyers across North America. The jump was the result of several factors, including a shortage of industrial scrap in the United States as well as demand from mills in China, the Far East and Turkey. Scrap prices dropped dramatically in 2009, buffeted by the most severe recession in three-quarters of a century, but the sector recovered strongly last year and predictions of an imminent return of shortages came true this year.....

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