Steel firms tap innovation to achieve carbon goals
Technicians review and adjust steel production parameters at a centralized control center of Fushun New Iron and Steel Ltd, a subsidiary of Jianlong Group, in Fushun, Liaoning province. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Industry ramps up efforts for technological upgrades, intelligent and green manufacturing transformation
Editor's note: China aims to peak its carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, major goals in a national green transition drive. This series looks at efforts in various sectors to meet the goals.
Guo Xiaoyan, a publicity executive at Beijing Jianlong Heavy Industry Group Co, has found that an increasing part of her daily work centers on the buzz phrase "dual carbon goals", which refers to China's climate commitments.
Since announcing that it would peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, China has made substantial efforts to pursue greener development.
The steel industry, a major carbon emitter and energy consumer in the manufacturing sector, has entered a new development era marked by technological innovation as well as intelligent and green manufacturing transformation, in an effort to advance energy conservation and reduce carbon emissions.
Updating shareholders on the latest moves and achievements on carbon footprint reduction by Jianlong Group, one of China's largest private steel enterprises, has become an important part of Guo's job.
"As the company has done a lot of work amid the whole nation's pursuit of green and high-quality growth and seeks to make more contributions to the nation's realization of its dual carbon goals, it is my job to make the company's efforts better known by others," she said.
"In doing that, we also hope people in the industry and beyond will understand the importance of achieving the dual carbon goals and join hands together for the realization of the goals," she added.
On March 10, Jianlong Group released its official road map for achieving a carbon peak by 2025 and carbon neutrality by 2060. The company plans to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2033, compared with 2025. It also aims to reduce average carbon intensity by 25 percent, compared with 2020.
Jianlong Group also looks to become a world-class supplier of green and low-carbon products and services and a global provider and leader in green and low-carbon metallurgical technology. It said it will advance green and low-carbon development through pathways including enhanced steelmaking technology and processes to reduce carbon, and by strengthening applications of cutting-edge technological innovations and promoting green and low-carbon upgrades of its product portfolio.
Increasing energy consumption efficiency and strengthening energy conservation, upgrading and digitalizing logistics solutions to reduce fossil fuel use, coordinating with downstream enterprises on energy and resource conservation, and promoting heat recycling will also be key methods for the company to achieve its carbon goals.
"Jianlong Group will continuously increase investment in scientific and technological innovation to establish a holistic system for science and technology research and development," said Zhang Zhixiang, chairman and president of the company.
"Through that, we aim to transform toward science and technology-driven development."
The company has been making efforts to upgrade technologies and equipment, as well as intensify energy recycling and intelligent management.
It has accelerated the use of highly efficient energy-saving facilities and equipment across its operations. Such equipment includes natural gas power generators and energy-saving water pumps.
The company is also phasing out a number of motors or other devices that are energy-intensive.
In the past three years, more than 100 energy conservation and environmental protection projects have been implemented by Jianlong Group's subsidiaries, with a total investment of more than 9 billion yuan ($1.4 billion).
The company has also been actively carrying out research on the green development of the metallurgical industry, while promoting the research and application of new energy-saving and environmental protection technologies.
With the application of intelligent technology for thermal control, the company's energy consumption rates have been lowered by 5 to 21 percent in some production links, such as heating furnaces and hot air furnaces.
Subsidiaries of the group have also made use of marginal waste heat as a heating source.
Experts and business leaders said that under the nation's green pledges, the steel industry faces huge pressure to make more efforts to shift toward green development.
Thanks to concrete actions taken by enterprises across the industry, many achievements have been made in cutting carbon, although more efforts are needed to press ahead with the shift, they said.
Li Xinchuang, chief engineer of the Beijing-based China Metallurgical Industry Planning and Research Institute, said Chinese steel enterprises have already outperformed many key foreign players in waste gas emissions control.
"The ultra-low carbon emission standards implemented in China are also the strictest in the world," he said.
Huang Dan, vice-president of Jianlong Group, said that China has rolled out a series of measures to accelerate carbon reduction and energy conservation in key industries including the steel sector, which demonstrates the nation's strong sense of responsibility and unfaltering pursuit of the building of an ecological civilization.
"Both academic and business communities have been actively studying new energy-saving and carbon emission reduction technologies, including recycling of waste heat and energy during steelmaking," Huang said.
"New breakthroughs are just around the corner to usher in a new round of improvements in the sector's energy efficiency," she added.
As of late 2021, the comprehensive energy consumption needed to produce 1 metric ton of crude steel in China's key large and medium-sized steel enterprises had dropped to 545 kilograms of standard coal equivalent, a decrease of 4.7 percent from 2015, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Sulfur dioxide emissions from producing 1 ton of steel were cut by 46 percent from the figure for 2015.
The nation's top steel industry association set up a Steel Industry Low-Carbon Promotion Committee last year to lead efforts aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Those efforts include developing carbon emission reduction technologies and standardizing criteria for related issues.
"Green and low-carbon development has become a universal mindset among China's steelmakers," said He Wenbo, executive chairman of the China Iron and Steel Association. "Some domestic players have led the world in using advanced pollution treatment facilities and reducing carbon emissions."