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Jay Stein's picture
Senior Fellow Emeritus E Source

Jay Stein, a Senior Fellow Emeritus affiliated with E Source, is one of America's leading energy technologists. Over the course of his over 40-year career he has played numerous roles, including...

  • Member since 2006
  • 79 items added with 54,472 views
  • Apr 29, 2021

Do you want more wind turbines, electric vehicles, and heat pumps? Then you also want more steel, but not just any steel: green steel. Check out my latest article to learn more about new green steel manufacturing technologies with virtually no carbon emissions.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 29, 2021

Such an important topic that too often gets overlooked-- with places like China and India still rapidly growing and building out new infrastructure, the manufacturing of these materials only promise to bring way more embedded emissions than we can handle. Glad to see we have some of the best minds addressing it!

Do you think the timeline and rate of scale will come to the degree we need for most of our current climate targets? 

Jay Stein's picture
Jay Stein on May 3, 2021

Nice, as always, to hear from you Matt. Do I think the timeline and rate of scale will come to the degree we need for most of our current climate targets? Heck, I don't know. All I've got to say on this front is that these developments can't come a minute too soon. It will be fascinating to see which technology emerges as the dominant one in the US market. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 30, 2021

Jay, has anyone ever made a metric ton of steel from renewable energy? 1 kilogram?

Currently the most efficient way to make steel from electricity is an electric arc furnace, which requires 625 kWh / tonne. 

Minimills are capable of manufacturing ~300,000 metric tonnes/yr. To make that much steel would require 187.5 GWh of energy.

What kind of solar farm could provide that much energy each year? Topaz, with 9 mi² of panels in the California desert, produces 1,282 GWh/yr.

(187.5 / 1,282) x 9 = 1.3 square miles of solar panels in the desert might do it, if owners didn't mind shutting the plant down at night and during cloudy weather.

Electrolyzing water to make hydrogen, at 60% efficiency, would only make matters worse.

Using renewables to create steel doesn't add up - not even close.

Jay Stein's picture
Jay Stein on Apr 30, 2021

Bob, in my writing on this subject, I have never called for all steel production to be accomplished using only renewable energy, let alone specifically electricity from photovoltaic panels. Therefore, I have no comment on your calculations regarding land-use issues associated with those panels. I will answer your question, though. I am not aware of anyone producing any amount of steel solely with renewable energy. Indeed, in my article, the only example I gave of a pilot plant in production, the electricity was composed of a mixture of hydropower, nuclear, and wind. Thank you, once again, for your over-a-decade long interest in my work.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 2, 2021

Jay, my point was that the possibilities of using the meager, intermittent energy available from renewables to help power a steel plant are akin to those of helping to power a cruise ship by handing out paddles to its passengers. They're insignificant - yet solar and wind are exactly the sources receiving the lion's share of funding in Joe Biden's Green New Deal.

There are no steel plants in Ohio or Pennsylvania which could sacrifice the reliability of nuclear energy, natural gas, or coal and remain profitable. So if Biden really wants to enable Green New Steel in the U.S., he would support legislation favored by Joe Manchin - a zero-emission credit to help keep nuclear plants open. But he isn't, and I suspect the American Petroleum Institute been lobbying in DC as they are in Ohio and Pennsylvania - hoping the renewables / paddles-for-passengers meme might help replace nuclear with gas plants.

I see you're associated with Rocky Mountain Institute, and I was curious: is Amory Lovins still doing six-figure consulting work for Chevron and other oil majors? He used to list payments as donations on RMI's taxes, but the IRS probably figured there was some quid pro quo going on.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on May 2, 2021

Some more info on this subject:

Currently about 67% of the steel produced in US is at plants utilizing EAFs - Electric Arc furnaces. This share will continue to grow.

As for using solar to lower the CO2 from steelmaking ... well of course the mill is hooked up to grid so the CO2 from the mill would need to be calculated based on the CO2 of the grid at time of production.

What kind of solar farm could provide that much energy each year?  

Pretty much any large sized solar project can provide an equivalent amount of electricity to a minimill's annual electricity consumption.

The updated EVRAZ plant in Colorado is a great example. 

Bighorn solar project is a 300MW solar farm being developed in Colorado, US. It is set to be the largest on-site solar project in the country.

The Bighorn solar project is being built on 728ha of land on the EVRAZ Rocky Mountain steel property in the city of Pueblo in Colorado. It will produce 300MW of direct current (DC) and 240MW of alternating current (AC).

The solar farm will produce 613,400 megawatt-hours of energy a year, offsetting approximately 90% of the steel mill’s annual electricity demand.

Note that this plant is being built onsite.

Going forward in the 2020s we will see more EAF minimills in the US signing low-cost PPAs with renewable energy and locating in states with lower carbon grids.

Jay Stein's picture
Jay Stein on May 3, 2021

Thanks, Joe, for your valuable contribution to this discussion. This looks to be an effective technique both for recycling steel, and processing iron into steel, the two applications for which electric arc furnaces are typically employed in the steel industry. For making iron ore into iron, the industry will need technologies like the ones I wrote about in my article. However, since, as you noted, the US market is dominated by steel recycling, and probably will continue to be for the foreseeable future, the PPAs you referred to are a welcome development.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on May 1, 2021

Jay, why not lighter weight aluminum ? Or new composite material? It is a whole new world. Less energy and more efficient vehicles from 100% renewable energy.

   By the way they have smelted metal from concentrated Solar heat energy. A lot of things are possible.

Jay Stein's picture
Jay Stein on May 3, 2021

Thanks, Jim. I support your suggestions for alternative materials. You’ll note that in my article I proposed that the first step towards minimizing emissions associated with steel manufacturing would be to use steel more effectively, and that includes replacing it with other materials. As for the solar furnace, it clearly has value for a variety of applications. We’ll have to wait and see if anyone applies it for steel manufacturing.

Jay Stein's picture
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