Nippon Steel Corporation´s sustainable innovations and carbon reduction strategies

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Since its inaugural Sustainability Report in 1998, Nippon Steel Corporation has remained steadfast in its dedication to fostering a sustainable society through its business endeavours (as stated in the company policy). Embracing a philosophy that places great importance on promoting activities aligned with sustainability goals, the corporation released its latest report in September 2023. We have prepared a short overview of the key highlights of the Report, focusing on the initiatives in transitioning towards low-carbon steelmaking processes, including advancements in hydrogen-based ironmaking and CO2 capture initiatives.

Nippon Steel Corporation has embarked on a sustainability journey encapsulated within its “Nippon Steel Carbon Neutral Vision 2050.” By prioritizing sustainability as a top management concern, Nippon Steel is aiming to contribute significantly to societal and environmental well-being.

Here are some excerpts from the report.

The fundament of our world

Steel contributes to making our life more convenient and pleasant, being used everywhere in our life and society, and as an indispensable part of resilient infrastructure against natural disasters caused by earthquakes, abnormal weather driven by climate change, and other factors. Steel is also an indispensable material element for achieving SDGs (sustainable development goals), as it helps reduce environmental impact due to the extension of its product life, etc. on top of being abundantly available and able to be recycled.

As a supplier of steel, Nippon Steel strives to implement their three “Eco” initiatives and innovative technologies and to advance the Carbon Neutral Vision as measures against climate change. They also promote sustainable measures to not waste resources. These measures include the use of by-product gas generated in steelmaking, reuse of recycled water, and recycling of by-products and waste generated in and out of the Company.

Steel slag, a by-product that contains nutritional matter that helps grow plants, is used as a fertilizer for rice cultivation, dry-field farming and pasture grass.

For instance, steel slag, a by-product that contains nutritional matter that helps grow plants, is used as a fertilizer for rice cultivation, dry-field farming and pasture grass. Certain amounts of converter slag fertilizer were donated to Tokyo University of Agriculture for research on salt removal in farmland in the areas that were devastated by the earthquakes and tsunami of March 2011.

Aside from steel slag, a substantial amount of dust, sludge and refractory bricks is produced during the iron and steel-making process. In the fiscal year 2022, Nippon Steel manufactured 34.25 million tons of crude steel, resulting in 20.57 million tons of generated by-products. They remain dedicated to recycling these both internally and externally, maintaining a recycling rate of 99%.

In addition, the company is pursuing energy conservation and utilization of energy produced during steelmaking processes, such as power generation from recovered by-product gas and waste heat.

Carbon Neutral Vision

Unveiled in March 2021, Nippon Steel´s Carbon Neutral Vision 2050 aligns with the Japanese government´s ambitious goals of achieving a carbon-neutral society by 2050.  Their commitment to carbon neutrality revolves around providing two significant values. Firstly, by delivering high-performance steel products and solutions that actively contribute to CO2 emission reduction in society. Secondly, by supplying carbon-neutral steel through the decarbonization of steelmaking processes. The goal set for 2030 is to reduce total emissions by 30% when compared to 2013. Initiatives include the introduction of hydrogen-rich gas injection technology in blast furnaces (BF), the production of high-grade steel in large electric arc furnaces (EAF), and participation in advanced CCS projects.

A newly installed EAF at Setouchi Works has commenced operations in 2022. This EAF is equipped to produce high-grade electrical steel sheets. Progress has also been made in implementing other technologies. For instance, reduction with hydrogen in BFs entails the introduction of hydrogen into existing blast furnaces to partially replace carbon, thereby reducing CO2 emissions.

Circular economy

Nippon Steel is dedicated to fostering a circular economy where resources are utilized efficiently, and waste is minimized through recycling and reuse. The company’s steel products are designed to facilitate infinite recycling, ensuring that materials are continuously repurposed without compromising quality. By promoting closed-loop systems and sustainable consumption patterns, they strive to minimize resource depletion and environmental degradation.

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Lucija Kozina
Lucija Kozina
Lucija started her career as a translator. Having moved to Germany, she found herself in editorial shoes and is now doing her best to navigate her way through various industries in order to bring informative but easy-to-read content to readers.

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All images were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic, or in compliance with social distancing.