A sustainable future for UK steel

04 November 2021

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is part of a major new three-way policy partnership which will set out thinking on policies required to develop a sustainable future for UK steel and embed investor support for the decarbonisation of steel production during the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

GFG Alliance (GFG), owner of LIBERTY Steel Group, has announced the partnership with the AMRC, Green Alliance and Bright Blue. It is being launched with a Prospectus for GREENSTEEL, in which the three organisations highlight the role that steel making and products made from steel can play in the drive to net-zero, and with a competitive operating environment and the right policy incentives in place.

GFG Alliance, a lead sponsor of the World Climate Summit, has for over a decade led the debate on the need for transition to GREENSTEEL. LIBERTY Steel UK operates electric arc furnaces at its Rotherham site which recycle steel scrap instead of producing steel from coal and iron ore. Electric arc furnaces produce only a tenth of the direct emissions compared with traditional blast furnace operations but are highly electro-intensive.  With a rapidly decarbonising energy grid the UK has a significant opportunity to lead the GREENSTEEL transformation by recycling steel with renewable power,

GFG Alliance Executive Chairman Sanjeev Gupta said: “The UK steel sector has been under enormous strain in recent years due to competitiveness issues and a lack of investment, yet the chance to show leadership and innovation in GREENSTEEL is now there to be grasped.

“Steel can be at the heart of our collective transition to a net-zero world. To achieve this the industry must change how steel is made. The case for decarbonised technologies – electric arc furnaces and in time hydrogen – is overwhelming.

“Clear thought and commitment from policy-makers and business leaders is needed to unlock investment in decarbonising steel production. Our partnership with Green Alliance, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Bright Blue will tap into their environmental, operational and economic expertise to make the case for change until it becomes a reality.”

The AMRC is a network of world-leading research and innovation centres and is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. This activity will draw on the expertise of a range of specialists at the AMRC, across the University of Sheffield and its wider academic network. It will be led by Senior Research Fellow Dr Peter Osborne.

University of Sheffield AMRC CEO, Steve Foxley, said: “A net zero future for our planet requires a sustainable steel industry and it is essential that innovation is at its heart.

"Collectively, we must find a new way of producing steel that both meets the demands of manufacturers and protects the environment; decarbonising the steel sector is critical to making this a possibility.”

Green Alliance is an independent think tank and charity focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. The project will be led by Policy Director, Dustin Benton and Deputy Policy Director, Roz Bulleid.

Green Alliance Executive Director, Shaun Spiers, said: “Early investment in renewables a decade ago turned a profit for investors, cut consumer bills, and turned coal power plants into stranded assets. New technology and policy means the steel sector is in for a similar transition this decade: rapid scaling up of clean steel will secure the jobs of steel workers and undermine the economics of high carbon laggards. We are delighted to join forces to accelerate the transition.” 

Bright Blue is an independent think tank for liberal conservatism, which seeks to defend and improve liberal society. The partnership work will be led by Senior Research Fellow Patrick Hall and Associate Fellow, Wilf Lytton.

Wilf Lytton, an Associate Fellow at Bright Blue, said: "Green steel is an indispensable building block of the net-zero future we are heading towards, and the UK’s steelmakers can play a leading role in producing it. Bright Blue’s vision is for the UK to become home to the world’s first zero-emissions steel industry, securing skilled jobs and investment in manufacturing.

"With much at stake and a narrowing window in which to grasp this opportunity, now is the time to set a clear policy direction that will determine the shape of the industry for decades to come and give steelmakers confidence to make long-term investments in their UK operations."

Read Peter Osborne's blog 'Green' steel crucial to net zero ambitions here.

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