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Danieli Group Chairman Gianpietro Benedetti: here is how we go green

Trends in steelmaking, green steel production and the key technologies currently available to achieve them: these were the main topics addressed by Danieli Group Chairman Gianpietro Benedetti during the interview with “Metal Market Magazine”.

It was early December 2021 and it was a very profitable moment for steel producers due to high steel prices and demand, but Gianpietro Benedetti already knew that between 2022 and 2023 the market would have had a “move back down”. The scenario did change as he predicted in the end, but the trends in steelmaking, especially those related to green steel, kept growing instead. Reducing carbon emissions is in fact a top priority in the steel industry, at least it is for Danieli Group. But while Europe is already working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the process will probably take longer in countries like China and India, where “the average level of life is still very low”. For that reason, the chairman declared that “It will be necessary to have some kind of duty, or some kind of control on imported steel”, with measures such as carbon border taxes.

According to Gianpietro Benedetti, hydrogen will be part of the solution. “If we talk more generally about carbon dioxide emissions – he said – everyone is talking about hydrogen, but in my opinion, there is a little problem on this”. Given that hydrogen can fits into the picture as a replacement for the natural gas used in DRI production modules, it still requires a lot of energy to be generated. “To make hydrogen today, for 1 kg you need 50-60 kWh. This means you may need some kind of new technology to provide it – some kind of energy breakthrough”, pointed out Danieli Group Chairman. In this scenario, diversity of energy supply will be crucial.

Hydrogen, however, is not the only means of reducing the steel industry’s carbon dioxide emissions. Another great way to reduce it is by eliminating the reheating furnace. “We are strong believers in direct rolling” claimed Gianpietro Benedetti. Currently, reheating furnaces consume energy to heat semi-finished steel products, like slab and billet, from the ambient temperature of a stockyard to the temperatures needed to pass them through rolling mills in order to make finished products.

Some progress has also been made in the field of EAFs, which have been improved in terms of efficiency and reduction of emissions. In the case of Danieli Group, the company went to digitalization with the Digimelter. “We are already building the first, totally new EAF, for CMC (Commercial Metals) in the United States. This Digimelter will have very close to net zero emissions. We just inject carbon into the furnace to produce the required [grade of] steel”, added the Chairman. They have already tried the use of recycled plastics to provide the carbon needed in the US. “The first experiment after six months has shown that we are able to reduce 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the EAF because of that”, reported Gianpietro Benedetti, who stressed that this approach along with the closed furnace will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of the Digimelter up to 55%.

By adopting all the available solutions (hydrogen, DRI, Digimelter and direct rolling), Danieli Group hence claims that it will be able to reduce emissions up to 95% compared to an integrated plant.

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