CCS in Steel: Kickstarting Europe’s Steel Industry Decarbonisation



❗This publication is currently open for input and subject to peer review. If you would like to contribute to this process, please send an e-mail to Ariane Giraneza ( by Tuesday, April 23rd 2024 EOB. 

European steel production alone is responsible for 5% of the CO₂ emissions in Europe. At the same time the steel industry direct and indirectly employs about 1.850.000 people, generates more than a 100 billion Euros of gross value added and is the base material for several important industrial sectors within the EU. It is of the utmost importance that steel in Europe is produced using low-emission processes, so that it can comply with net zero in 2050. In the IEA Net Zero Scenario, steel production emissions will need to decrease to 1 ton of CO₂ per ton of steel by 2030 to reach net-zero in 2050.

Direct reduction using renewable or green hydrogen can reduce emissions in steel production with almost 95% and is therefore the most promising way to decarbonise the steel sector. However, vast amounts of green electricity are required for the electrolysis of water to produce green hydrogen. This forms a significant bottleneck for hydrogen in the decarbonisation of steel.

The scarcity of green hydrogen will mean that most steelmakers that do switch to Direct Reduced Ironmaking (DRI) as a mode of production in the short-term will be using fossil gas on their furnaces. 

Furthermore, the conventional steel making route using coal of Blast Furnace-Basic Oxygen Furnace (BF/BOF) accounts for around 60% of the EU steel production. Such steel plants have a typical life of about 40 years, with the need for additional investment after 25 years. According to the IEA several of the existing blast furnaces in Europe are almost 25 years old and would be great candidates for investments in cleaner modes of production rather than BF/BOF. At the same time, several of Europe’s steelmaking capacity has recently undergone refurbishing works and other investments, this reduces the economic willingness and potentially feasibility for these steelmakers to switch technologies due to sunk costs. 

This makes the use of Carbon Capture and Storage in steel an option to cut emissions quickly in the following ways:

  1. The capture and storage of emissions from conventional blast furnaces in the short term.
  2. The capture and storage of emissions from DRI furnaces on fossil gas in the short to medium term.
  3. The creation of blue hydrogen for direct hydrogen reduction furnaces by capturing and storing CO₂ emissions from existing hydrogen production through CH4 in the short to medium term.
  4. The capture of remaining emissions from metallurgic processes and off-gasses of electric arc furnaces even with direct hydrogen reduction with green hydrogen in the long term.

In conclusion, the case for CCS in steel is more compelling and necessary for 2030, with its relevance as a decarbonisation pathway diminishing in 2050 in favour of other technologies such as green hydrogen. As different decarbonisation options become available such as direct hydrogen reduction with green hydrogen scale up, the need for CCS in the steel sector will decrease over time. But ultimately, to fully decarbonise steel production, CCS remains necessary to tackle emissions from the steelmaking process that cannot be otherwise decarbonised.

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