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Metal supplier news – Goodbye coking coal, Cumbria re-think, China gets tough

There’s plenty going on in the turbulent world of steel at the moment. As steel suppliers in the UK we’re delighted to learn that there’s no need for one of the nastiest fossil fuels around, coking coal, to play a role in steel production in future – it’s goodbye to coking coal, hello to hydrogen.

Metal supplier news – Goodbye coking coal, Cumbria re-think, China gets tough

There’s plenty going on in the turbulent world of steel at the moment. As steel suppliers in the UK we’re delighted to learn that there’s no need for one of the nastiest fossil fuels around, coking coal, to play a role in steel production in future – it’s goodbye to coking coal, hello to hydrogen. Cumbria is reconsidering its hugely unpopular decision to permit a new coking coal mine. And China is getting tough on domestic steel production emissions targets. Welcome to our steel special.

HYBRIT is set to change the dirty face of steel production

Steel making is one of the world’s biggest CO2 emitters thanks to the use of coking coal, one of the worst sinners in the fossil fuel game. At the same time we need steel to build the infrastructure we must have if we want to achieve the nation’s long term plans for sustainable energy. So it’s great to hear that August 2020 saw a Swedish steel making plant using hydrogen instead of coking coal.

The project is called HYBRIT, and it’s due to make fossil fuel-less steel commercially viable – as well as available to buy – in the very near future. It’s all down to the use of the ‘green or blue’ hydrogen that’s currently harnessed by oil refineries to reduce the sulphur content of diesel fuel.

Cumbria County Council sees sense

At the same time Cumbria County Council’s reconsideration of the permission they gave for a new Whitehaven coking coal mine is being widely welcomed by Friends of the Lake District (FLD), a consortium of 80 or so ‘concerned groups’.

The decision to reconsider permission is also being welcomed by local people, climate activists, and everyone else who has been horrified by their short-sighted, short term view of the dangers of fossil fuels. As a spokesman for the FLD said:

“The increase in carbon emissions from this mine alone would amount to more emissions than the Climate Change Committee has projected for all open UK coal mines up to 2050. A new mine jeopardises the UK’s goals of phasing out coal by 2035, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, as well as undermining the UK’s COP26 Climate Change Conference Presidency and international credibility. We do not need the mine, 85% of the coal to be produced is for export. The county council has the chance to show real leadership in the fight against climate change by recognising Cumbria’s potential to be at the heart of a Green Industrial Revolution.”

China cracks down on its own worst steel-making emitters

More emissions dominoes are falling. As steel suppliers UK with a keen interest in fixing climate change, we’re glad to hear about China’s dramatic crackdown on industrial activity in Tangshan, the country’s steel making hub. The authorities issued a notice on 2nd March to confirm they were bringing in a ‘strict crackdown’ throughout the month for companies lagging behind on emissions targets. If they don’t improve, they could stay closed for months.

Ten different measures are being brought into play, including phasing out old equipment and bringing in much stricter emissions-reduction controls. So far seven huge 450 cubic metre blast furnaces have been ordered to shut down by 10th March, due to be replaced by bigger, newer, cleaner furnaces. Luckily the steel market has been expecting this for some time and the impact isn’t expected to be ‘significant’.

P&O’s brand new ‘environmentally innovative’ cruise ship

P&O is having a new cruise ship built, called Arvia, and the first piece of steel for the new vessel has just been cut. It’s a huge gas powered cruise ship and it’ll be based at Southampton from 2022. This is P&O’s second liquefied natural gas powered Excel class ship, their first being the Iona.

In the words of the company’s President Paul Ludlow, “The steel cutting marks an extraordinary milestone for the future of P&O Cruises. It is a future which will include two of the most environmentally innovative ships in the world today. Iona is poised to join our fleet this summer as we return to service and is eagerly anticipated by our employees, crew and certainly by our guests who cannot wait to sail on her during her maiden season from Southampton.”

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