Ford is making deals to buy cleaner steel | Rare Techy
It’s tempting to think of steel as something that humanity only got after the Industrial Revolution, but that’s only partially true. Steel production goes back thousands of years and made things like swords and springs. They probably didn’t know why the better irons they were blowing out in the bloom furnaces were stronger, but instead of studying atomic structures unknown at the time, they adopted the phrase “If it works, go with it.” attitude. But just because it worked didn’t mean it was easy or possible to make in large quantities.
So for most of its history, steel was only used for items that didn’t have a simpler and cheaper alternative (often weapons). It was not used in structures, vehicles, and other things that required a lot of steel.
Its widespread industrial use did not begin until the 17th century, when more efficient production methods such as blast furnaces and crucible steel were introduced. This was followed by open hearth furnaces in England in the mid-19th century, which paved the way for the mass production of steel through the Bessemer process. With this invention, mild steel replaced wrought iron as the preferred choice among both manufacturers and consumers, and steel could be used in everything from buildings to automobiles because it was not a metal of limited production.
But there is a problem with steel. Not only does it take carbon-intensive energy to melt iron and create steel, but carbon atoms are needed to make steel stronger. This is why the use of coking coal in steelmaking is so popular – it adds mass to the carbon metal in a chemical reaction.
Today, steel is one of the most produced things in the world. We can use it to build things that were previously impossible, like skyscrapers and cars that don’t crash and kill occupants as often. But it takes a lot of carbon to make all that steel, and accounts for about 8% of human carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. So, we have to find ways to reduce it.
Fortunately, there are companies that are making lower impact steel, and Ford is working with some of them to get this greener, leaner steel into its vehicles.
The company recently announced that it is taking more steps to ensure a stable supply of low-carbon steel for its future products. This will help the company achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035. The company has signed MoUs with Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH, Tata Steel Nederland BV and ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe AG to ensure supply.
Three of Ford’s major suppliers have announced they will increase production of low-carbon steel in the coming years. This is great news for Ford as it means a significant reduction in the company’s CO2 footprint. This new steel will be used for the first time on Ford’s all-electric mid-size crossover vehicle, which is expected to be released in 2023.
“Our customers, like us, want to take care of their planet, and we’re taking the necessary steps in that journey by providing them with more sustainably produced vehicles that contribute to climate change,” said Sue. Tapa, Director of Purchasing, Supply Chain Sustainability, Ford Motor Company. “Improvements in our supply chain are key and by using carbon neutral steel we are taking a big step towards reducing the CO2 footprint of our vehicles.”
Reducing CO2 emissions throughout the supply chain is critical to Ford’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality in all European facilities, logistics and suppliers by 2035. To achieve this difficult but ambitious goal, Ford must produce highly efficient vehicles by analyzing the entire value chain. With the introduction of new energy-efficient solutions, the major upgrades of the Cologne Electrification Center production unit will save approximately 2,000+ tons of CO2 emissions and 2,600 MWh of electricity per year.
The initiative also contributes to the company’s commitment to use 10% carbon neutral steel by 2030. It was announced earlier this year when Ford joined the First Movers Coalition. The First Movers Coalition is a global initiative created by the World Economic Forum to harness purchasing power and supply chains. Their goal is to create early markets for innovative clean energy technologies, which Ford’s contribution will help.
Steel companies are using green hydrogen and renewable energy in new production processes to gradually reduce their CO2 footprint. In other words, they contribute to the European Green Deal’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
How can steel be produced without carbon emissions?
Ford’s plans are great, but some readers are probably wondering how steel production works without contributing negatively to climate change, or how to reduce it at all.
Recycling scrap metal gives us clues. Steel can often be recycled by melting it using electricity, especially an electric arc (such as lightning or electric welding).
But recycling cannot cover all needs. It is certainly an important part of the future, but the processing of ore into steel will still be needed.
There are several possible methods, but they usually involve burning hydrogen instead of fossil fuels to produce the heat needed to make steel. It doesn’t give the steel the carbon it needs, but it does allow other methods of carbonizing steel or decarbonizing cast iron (iron with too much carbon to be strong). Add some arc-based smelting and you can produce steel with a lot of electricity instead of coal or other fossil fuels.
This can be problematic, however, as producing green hydrogen and the electric arc needed to melt steel would require renewable electricity (and lots of it), but this is a problem that can be solved by producing more solar, wind and other renewables. power that is at least possible (even if difficult).
Whatever the particular process used, it’s good to see that a real manufacturer is buying steel that’s made with lower carbon emissions and isn’t just happening in a lab.
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