A new study out of the UK this month proposes a new way to make steel without producing carbon dioxide. Scientists at the University of Birmingham have proposed using a perovskite mineral to recycle carbon dioxide emitted by blast furnaces during steelmaking. At large scale, it can reduce emissions by about 90 percent without requiring manufacturers to purchase new equipment or machinery. The mineral can be retrofitted onto existing blast furnaces, the most common method of making steel. The method has so far been validated in the laboratory, but not on a larger commercial scale, which will be a key test of whether it works. According to the research, this is expected to happen within five years.
The new technology would be much cheaper than the current alternative method of heating ore with hydrogen, known as green steel. One thing that could hold back the technology’s use is that the mineral niobium, crucial to the process, is mined only in Brazil and Canada, so major steelmakers in the U.S. and China will have to rely on imports. As I wrote earlier this month, green steel technology has been gaining ground in Europe and advocates hope to maintain the momentum of adoption, but educating and marketing the technology is currently one of the biggest hurdles. If the UK’s proposed technology does what the scientists say it does and is widely available, it would be a huge decarbonisation achievement for the industry responsible for 7% of the world’s carbon emissions.