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Making metals work: moving to zero emissions.

If people were asked to guess what is the biggest planet polluter in terms of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, high on the list would be cars. Yet, astonishingly, global metal production accounts for more than all cars combined – responsible for 9% of greenhouse gas emissions1. According to a report: “Steel is the second-most polluting industrial material after cement, causing 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.1When we consider that developing countries still need to increase their stocks of metal to provide essential services such as transport, housing and communications for their citizens, it’s clear that the production of primary metals will continue to increase, making the drive towards emissions reduction in accordance with the Paris Agreement ever more difficult.

9% of the world’s emissions comes from metal production

Two approaches: Change the process

At the heart of one potential change in steelmaking is ‘green steel’ – a process that involves manufacturing steel without using coking coal; a process that is forecast to eventually be more efficient than blast furnace steelmaking. “Hydrogen made using renewables, known as green hydrogen, has been hailed as the energy and reactant source to replace coking coal in steel manufacturing,” says an ABC report3.

In Australia, Andrew Forrest, founder of Fortescue Metals Group, is an enthusiastic supporter, saying “The solution is hydrogen. To make it, all you need to do is run electricity through water4”.  BlueScope Steel is also embracing the challenge, while acknowledging that there’s a long way to go in terms of the technology being able to produce the renewable energy quantities required to manufacture steel at today’s levels.

Two approaches: Be more energy efficient

Metal producing businesses are necessarily energy-intensive businesses. Why do they need to lower their carbon footprint and move towards Net Zero emissions?

Energy price rises – these can have a considerable impact on business profitability

Reliance on a single source of energy – comes with business continuity risks; better to use diversified energy sources

Regulatory pressures – pushing organisations to account for and reduce their emissions 

Community pressure – increasing consumer desire to only engage with ‘sustainable’ businesses

Five ways to reduce energy costs

Sustainability Victoria5 worked with over 300 metal fabrication manufacturers, looking at energy use and how to minimise energy costs. Some of its key findings include:

1. Insulate piping: Insulating steam or chilled water piping to reduce temperature loss and improve the amount of energy used to function.

2. Implement heat recovery: Redirect heat that would otherwise be vented outside to preheat water for boilers or heat the workplace.

3. Install power factor correction equipment: Power factor is a measure of how effectively your equipment uses electricity. Reduce the amount you pay on your ‘network demand charges’ by improving your power factor and correcting supply inefficacies.

$600k saving over 3 months thanks to demand response strategies

With power bills of between $700,000 and $1.2 million each month, Adelaide metal foundry, which consumes around 4% of South Australia’s energy supply each year, has a huge incentive to reduce energy costs. Thanks to using ‘demand response’ strategies to switch off in times of peak demand, it was able to save $600,000 on its power bills in three months6.

4. Install a gas or electricity meter on high-energy equipment: Monitor use on equipment that uses the most energy. Analyse the data to see if the equipment is working efficiently.

5. Invest in solar: Power your site with a photovoltaic solar system to reduce your energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Act now to make an impact tomorrow

Energy Action has helped thousands of businesses across multiple industries make the transition to sustainability and Net Zero. (We achieved Net Zero ourselves this year.) Energy Action’s services include:

Solar auctions: Through our solar auction platform you can quickly and easily get the right solar solution, at the best possible price, and select the right purchasing method for you. Installing solar will save your business considerable sums while lowering your emissions and reducing dependency on the grid.

Net Zero transition: Energy Action has a proven five step process to help your business make the transition to Net Zero:

STEP 1: Measure your usage and emissions: you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

STEP 2: Lower your costs: use the measured data to establish areas for improvement.

STEP 3: Consider your emission reduction options: match your appetite for renewables to your budget and timeline.

STEP 4: Procure at least-cost: let energy retailers, renewable energy producers and/or installers compete to win your business.

STEP 5: Manage: from contract fulfilment to certification management.

For more information on how we can help your metal foundry business reach its Net Zero goals, contact us today.

Sources:

1. From mining to making: Australia’s future in zero emissions metal

2. CSIRO website: Steeling ourselves: How Australia can support the transition to net-zero steel

3. ABC News website: Startup promises green steel by 2025 as decarbonisation race heats up. 8 February, 2022.

4. ABC News website: Hydrogen touted as solution in BlueScope's long road to green steel 25 October, 2021.

5. Sustainability Victoria website: Energy efficiency in manufacturing metal

6. Australian Financial Review:Powershop, United Energy, metal foundry sign up for demand response trial 11 October, 2017.

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