Using coal in steelmaking - Key potential environmental impacts
In steelmaking, greenhouse gases result from the chemical reaction that occurs in the blast furnace reaction between coke and iron ore. The burning of diesel, fuel oil, coke oven gas and other fuel sources also contributes to greenhouse gases.
What is industry doing?
Industry is focusing on ways to increase the efficient use of energy throughout the various phases of steelmaking. These include investments in cogeneration, more efficient equipment and systems (such new furnace technologies) and shifts in the types of fuels used. Since 1990, Canadian steel producers have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent and have reduced the amount of energy to create a tonne of steel by 25 per cent.
The industry continues to increase the amount of steel recycled each year in Canada, helping to save energy, reduce impacts on landfills and conserve raw materials, such as coal, iron ore and limestone. Since 1990, Canadian steelmakers have increased the amount of scrap steel they recycle by 26 per cent.
Government and industry researchers are developing new technologies to improve coke quality, coking processes and pulverized coal injection systems for blast furnaces. These are intended to enhance industry competitiveness and provide operating and environmental benefits.
Steelmaking companies support the use of voluntary approaches as an alternative to mandatory environmental regulations. These approaches allow industry flexibility in deciding how to achieve environmental goals, such as emission reductions and energy efficiency improvements. Individual steelmaking companies submit yearly reports on their greenhouse gas commitments and climate change actions to Canada’s Voluntary Challenge and Registry (VCR) Program. Canadian steelproducers are also founding members of the Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (CIPEC). Through this voluntary program, they collect industry-wide data on energy consumption and efficiency, and are committed to gains in energy efficiency of one per cent each year from 2000 to 2010.
Benzene and PAH emissions
Two toxic emissions produced during cokemaking are benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In Canada, leaks from coke oven operations and byproduct plants are the main sources of these emissions, which can have a harmful effect on human health.
What is industry doing?
In 1998, the industry, in collaboration with governments and environmental and labour groups, developed voluntary codes of practice to reduce and control emissions of benzene and PAHs.
The codes include emission reduction targets and a comprehensive set of operating practices, consisting of equipment specifications, monitoring techniques, work practices and third-party auditing. Steelmaking companies have invested millions in best available technology for benzene collection and management systems at byproducts plants.
As a result of carrying out these codes of practice, the industry has reduced benzene and PAH emissions per tonne of coke produced by 74 per cent since 1993.
The industry has also worked with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to define new Canada-wide standards for benzene.
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