Electrification ‘the rapid and sustainable solution’ – British Steel CEO as unions warn against reliance

Electrification will provide a “rapid and sustainable solution” to the decarbonisation challenge, British Steel chief executive and president, Xijun Cao, has underlined.

The company has launched its most ambitious transformation project in its history as it looks to switch from blast furnace to electric arc production – by late 2025. The clean technology option would be deployed in Scunthorpe and Teesside, with the potential to eradicate 75 per cent of the company’s emissions. It is a move that sees plans first revealed in late 2021 significantly accelerated.

The Jingye Group business has also made clear the need for support from Westminster again – with a package having been worked up for more than a year. It comes as unions warn against reliance on electric arc furnace production – conscious it may leave the UK vulnerable.

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Xijun said: “It is prudent to evaluate different operational scenarios to help us achieve our goals and we are continuing to assess our options. However, we firmly believe electrification will provide a rapid and sustainable solution to our decarbonisation challenge in addition to providing support for sustainable employment.

“We are confident our proposals will help secure the low-embedded carbon steelmaking the UK requires now and for decades to come. However, we need the UK to adopt the correct policies and frameworks now to back our decarbonisation drive. Governments in the countries where our major competitors operate have adopted such policies and the longer we wait for their implementation in the UK, the more impact and challenge this will have on our competitiveness and the country’s ability to meet its carbon objectives.

“We remain in talks with the government and, with its support, are committed to making the steel Britain needs for generations to come.”

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community.

Community Union general secretary Roy Rickhuss has warned the proposal – alongside those in Port Talbot – could leave the UK no longer able to produce primary steel products, leaving it reliant on importance from a “turbulent and unreliable international market”.

He said: “Community acknowledges British Steel’s early engagement on proposals to transition to green steel and we welcome the company’s commitment to support our experts to scrutinise their plans.

“We are deeply concerned by British Steel’s plans for an EAF-only approach at Scunthorpe and Teesside, and it is vital a meaningful consultation takes place to assess all the options to secure the future of steelmaking. Were they to be realised the plans that British Steel has announced, combined with Tata Steel’s plans, would leave the UK unable to make steel from raw materials and dangerously exposed to international markets. Community firmly believes that the blast furnaces continue to be vital in any responsible transition to green steelmaking.

“All options for decarbonisation must remain on the table, and Community will do whatever it takes to protect our members interests. With the right commitment from all stakeholders we can deliver a just transition that saves our planet, saves our jobs, and saves our steel.”

Industrial experts Syndex will soon be publishing a report on alternative methods of decarbonising the steel industry at Port Talbot and will be scrutinising British Steel’s plans for Scunthorpe and Teesside, Mr Rickhuss said. The report is set to include recommendations on a phased transition towards electrified steelmaking.

A Government spokesperson said: “Our commitment to the UK steel sector is clear, and we continue to work closely with industry, including British Steel, to secure a sustainable and competitive future for the sector and its workers.

“We have offered a generous support package including more than £300 million of investment for British Steel to cut emissions, help safeguard jobs and unlock over £1 billion in stakeholder investment. Ultimately, it is for British Steel to manage commercial decisions for the future of the company, and we cannot comment on ongoing commercial negotiations beyond that.”

Original artice – https://business-live.co.uk/all-about/yorkshire-humber

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