Decarbonisation goals and net zero steel production

Decarbonisation goals and net zero steel production

Proving Steel Production CO2 Reductions

“Many of our customers consider it important to take delivery of a real, physical reduced CO2 product now rather than being satisfied with more or less theoretical CO2 footprint projections.”

Mr. Ulrich Grethe

Member of the Group Management Board and Chairman of the Management Board of Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH

 Friday, 12 June 2021

In the global fight against climate change, many nations are already committed to reduce energy consumption and have set ambitious goals to minimise carbon emissions. This includes the Paris Agreement (adopted at COP21), the Renewable Energy Directive (RED I, RED II), the European Green Deal, and China’s 2060 net zero target. To achieve net zero targets, there must be significant decarbonisation and a substantial change will be required in the way energy is generated, stored, transported and consumed.

According to the World Steel Association1, 1,869 million metric tonnes of crude steel were produced globally in 2019. Production levels increase year-on-year as steel is vital to the success of many industrial sectors including construction, mobility, energy, transport and consumer goods. It is therefore no surprise that the International Energy Agency (IEA) also reports2 that among heavy industries, the iron and steel sector ranks first when it comes to CO2 emissions, and second when it comes energy consumption.


Steel industry under pressure to be a key player in the process of decarbonisation

To meet the goals of the IEA’s3 Sustainable Development Scenario, the CO2 intensity of crude steel must decrease an average of 2.5% annually between 2018 and 2030. The IEA believes that new low-emissions process routes will be crucial. It is essential for the steel industry to provide the highest levels of transparency to the market.

The steel industry requires enormous quantities of energy to operate. For every tonne of steel, more than two tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. The global steel industry is now under pressure from the market and society to lower its carbon impact. Major steel companies worldwide have therefore committed to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, as part of the industry’s contribution to meeting Paris Agreement climate change targets. There are a variety of decarbonisation strategies that steel producers can adopt to meet their targets.



Proof of reduced CO2 emissions in production processes can create a competitive advantage for steel manufacturers. They send a clear signal, that they take positive action to address their contribution to the climate crisis. However, it is essential to have accurate measurement and verification of CO2 emissions to ensure that their statements are credible and provable.

Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH is a green steel pioneer and produced the first low CO2 steel slab back in 2020. It also became the first European producer to obtain a conformity statement according to TÜV SÜD´s VERIsteel© procedure for producing strip steel products. Meanwhile, more and more customers from a range of sectors are interested in steel products that show a tangible CO2 reduction.

TÜV SÜD’s VERIsteel procedure validated the carbon load of two process routes used by Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH for strip steel production. A comparison of the two baselines showed that Salzgitter’s switch from conventional blast furnace steel production processes to the electro-steel route achieved reductions of more than 75% in the CO2 footprint of slabs, and more than 66% for galvanized coils.

Standardisation is the prerequisite for establishing the comparability of processes and products. For Salzgitter, TÜV SÜD’s neutral and transparent VERIsteel service provided the basis for a sound CO2 statement regarding its production processes and products, and it has paved the way for the steel producer to realise subsequent stages of decarbonisation in a targeted manner.

Ulrich Grethe, member of the Group Management Board and Chairman of the Management Board of Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH: “We are the first European steel manufacturer with a conformity statement for green products. Many of our customers consider it important to take delivery of a real, physical reduced-CO2 product now rather than being satisfied with more or less theoretical CO2 footprint projections.

Going forward, we will be consistently pursuing the path toward decarbonisation with SALCOS – SAlzgitter Low CO2-Steelmaking. This innovation project enables us to gradually switch entirely from conventional steel production to hydrogen- and natural gas-based processes, which enables CO2 to be lowered by up to 95%. The political and economic framework conditions for this to happen must be set in place as quickly as possible.”


VERIsteel supports decarbonisation goals

Based on ISO/IEC 17029 – “Conformity assessment — General principles and requirements for validation and verification bodies”, and other relevant international standards (like ISO14067, 22095 worldsteel, etc.), VERIsteel delivers a high level of impartiality and transparency to CO2 emissions validation and verification. This procedure also supports the definition of a reference baseline for CO2 reductions, helping businesses to validate their carbon load, identify required investment levels, and forecast future CO2 per-product levels. Furthermore, the prognosis will be validated and documented as well.

Tailored to the specific needs of every individual manufacturer, VERIsteel maps all relevant processes and material flows to validate production process CO2 emission levels. This holistic approach to recording CO2 emissions creates a transparent baseline for both individual measures and the entire decarbonisation process. Meanwhile, VERIsteel’s standardised approach ensures that processes and products can be consistently compared.

VERIsteel is part of the veriX-Edition, which helps other energy-intensive industries to validate their success in reducing CO2 emissions, as part of the global fight against climate change. veriX services include:

  • VERIaluminium
  • VERIconcrete
  • VERIcast
  • VERIcement
  • VERIchem
  • VERIglass
  • VERIretail
  • VERIsteel
  • VERIrecycle

[1] World Steel Association, 2020 World Steel in Figures 

[2] IEA, Iron & Steel Technology Roadmap, October 2020 

[3] IEA, Iron & Steel Tracking Report, June 2020

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