Stainless Steels and CO2: Industry Emissions and Related Data

Like any other major industry, the stainless steels industry endeavours to reduce its operational CO2 emissions on an ongoing basis. The ISSF has issued a report to clarify what emissions exist and where they originate from.

The report is available in English, Chinese and Japanese.

Introduction

It should be noted that within the stainless steels industry there are essentially two production systems, namely;

  1. The scrap-based production system in which the bulk of used raw materials are end-of-life stainless steels and/or similar alloy materials that are recycled to produce new stainless steels. This production system is aligned to geographical locations where the availability of end-of-life materials and scrap is high.
  2. The Nickel Pig Iron (NPI) production system in which the bulk of the Nickel units required for stainless steel production is not derived from stainless steel scrap, but from extracted Nickel ores which are converted into NPI. This production system is aligned to geographical locations where the availability of stainless steel scrap is low.

There is currently insufficient available end-of-life stainless steel scrap in all regions of the world to permit only scrap-based production to exist. This situation is likely to remain true for several decades to come.

General facts

Stainless steel is the term used to describe a remarkable and extremely versatile family of metals that contain a minimum of 10.5 % chromium. Chromium is essential to achieve the metal’s “stainless” properties. Other alloying elements (such as nickel, molybdenum and copper) provide a wide range of mechanical and physical properties.

For the stainless steel industry, scrap has a high intrinsic value. The only limitation is the availability of scrap, especially in emerging countries. The durability of stainless steel restricts the availability of scrap. For example, when stainless steel is used in buildings, it remains there for many years and cannot be reused before the building is dismantled.

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and has one of the highest recycling rates of any material. It is estimated that at least 85% of stainless steels are recycled at the end of their life. Depending on the type, location and availability of stainless steel scrap, production via the EAF route can be economically advantageous. In addition, the recycling system for stainless steel is very efficient and requires no subsidies.

Over the past 20 years the world has produced approximately 670 million metric tons of stainless steel. World production increased from 19 million tons to over 50 millions of tons over the same time period. The growth in the use of stainless steel has been the highest of any material in the world. Stainless steel’s properties, such as its 100 % recyclability, reusability, durability, low maintenance and product safety partly explain this amazing consumption growth (click here for more information on production statistics).

CO2 Emissions

In this report the ISSF clarifies what emissions exist and where they originate from and in order to achieve these objectives, we have quantified the CO2 emissions from the following three sources.

  • Scope 1 Emissions which covers direct emissions from business-owned or business-controlled emission sources.
  • Scope 2 Emissions which covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company.
  • Scope 3 Emissions which are associated with the extraction, preparation and transport of ores and the subsequent production and transport of ferro-alloys including the electricity needed for these processes.

These above-described three sources allow us to provide a cradle to gate view of the stainless steel industry’s CO2 emissions.

Scope 1 Emissions

The current scrap-based producer average is 0.39 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of stainless steel produced. 80% of the producer results sit (normally distributed) in the range 0.20 to 0.60 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of stainless steel produced.

Scope 2 Emissions

The current scrap-based producer average is 0.49 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of stainless steel produced. 93% of the producer results sit (normally distributed) in the range 0.30 to 0.70 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of stainless steel produced.

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions cannot be defined in the same manner. We currently know that there is a linear relationship between the amount of recycled content (scrap stainless steel and low alloy steels) charged and the magnitude of Scope 3 emissions. The higher the recycled content the lower the Scope 3 emissions.

Detailed information can be found in the report here.
CO2 production emissions for alloys in structures over 110 years of operational life

The figure shows the CO2 production and maintenance emissions for stainless steels, carbon steel and aluminium. Two different types of produced stainless steel have been included, namely Stainless 1 which is produced with an 80% recycle content and Stainless 2 which is produced with a 60% recycled content.

The data comprises CO2 tons emitted per ton of material produced (Scope 1 + Scope 2 + Scope 3) plus any CO2 emissions associated with regular maintenance needs. The carbon steel emissions increase every 10 years due to regular maintenance needed to suppress corrosion. Stainless steel and Aluminium emissions do not increase as their passive films prevent the need for regular maintenance. The lifetime of stainless steels in-service beyond 110 years are not yet known as the industry is currently 108 years old.

All details can be found in the report here.
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