A new way of making steel without producing carbon dioxide was proposed in new research out of Great Britain this month. Scientists at the University of Birmingham have proposed using a form of the mineral perovskite that would recycle the carbon dioxide that blast furnaces emit during the steelmaking process. At a large scale, it could reduce emissions by around 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. So far, the method has been demonstrated in a lab but not at a larger, commercial scale, which will be the crucial test to whether it works or not. That is expected to take place within five years, according to the research.
The new technology would be much cheaper than the current alternative method, known as green steel, that uses hydrogen to heat the ore. One thing that might hold back the use of the technique is that the mineral crucial to the process, Niobium, is only mined in Brazil and Canada, so major steelmakers in the US and China would have to rely on imports. As I wrote about earlier this month, green steel technology has been advancing in Europe and advocates hope to keep the momentum for adoption going, but educating and marketing the technology is one of the biggest hurdles at the moment. If the proposed technology out of Great Britain does what scientists say it could and is usable at a wide scale, it would be a massive accomplishment in decarbonizing a sector that contributes to about 7 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.