An energy-efficient future for the metals industry

Increasing energy efficiency in energy-intensive industries is vital as we move towards an uncertain future. With the help of new technologies, it is time for the metals industry to act, says Pasi Mannisto, Segment Manager at ABB Motion.

The iron and steel industry accounts for 7% of global carbon emissions. Part of the reason for this is the highly energy-intensive processes involved in production.

Using energy in steel production

“Steel is produced in several different ways,” explains Mannisto. “One way is to take iron ore and melt it into iro in a blast furnace. I would say that the blast furnace is the biggest energy consumer in the metals industry.” This consumption is mainly because of the large amounts of coke required to fuel such a furnace.

Smelting old steel for recycling purposes using an electric arc furnace is another method of steel production.

“Then, to form the molten steel into pipes, rods, steel sheets, or whatever product you want, you need to reformulate it. This is done in rolling machines, which use big electric motors that also consume a large amount of electricity,” says Mannisto.

And, furthermore, apart from this equipment there are many auxiliary processes that require lots of energy such as water and flue gas treatment.

With the help of new technologies, it is time for the metals industry to increase energy efficiency, says Pasi Mannisto, Segment Manager at ABB Motion.

Identifying efficiency possibilities

“To reduce the CO₂ emissions produced by the metals industry, we have to save a lot of energy and reduce the amount of fossil energy sources that are used,” continues Mannisto. In fact, there are many areas where energy efficiency can be improved.

Small streams together make a big impact.

“Energy efficiency increases can take place for example through electrification. Other methodologies involve digital algorithms to monitor and control energy use. Then of course using the best available technology such as high-efficiency motors and variable speed drives. Even reducing harmonics in the supply network will create small streams, and small streams together will make a big impact.”

Mannisto points out that these are all methods that are available now. But in the long-term the use of fossil fuels is being reduced in favour of hydrogen and other technologies.

Changing priorities in a changing world

In conclusion, Mannisto mentions that the metals industry has enjoyed cheap energy and cheap raw materials for a long time.

We only have one globe, so we have to work together.

“Although the metals industry has been quite traditional, in recent years awareness about environmental issues has risen. Now, of course, energy efficiency and the environment are always on the agenda and more and more companies are realising that we need to do something.”

The best way to create effective change, suggest Mannisto, is to strive for mutual advances in saving costs and resources. “We only have one globe, so we have to work together. ABB work with our customers to make their processes more effective. Let’s keep on going – we have a common goal.”

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