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Ferrous scrap remains key to reducing carbon emissions in Europe: Eusider Trading

The use of ferrous scrap continued to hog the spotlight in the push for the European steel industry to be a more circular one, with the region having abundant resources of the raw material being a key advantage, CEO of Eusider Trading Marco Micciché said during a presentation at the S&P Global Platts 16th Steel Markets Asia Conference Dec. 1.

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"There is much more generation of the raw material than what the domestic steel industry in the EU-28 can absorb, and a big chunk of it was instead exported," he said. "Europe is a natural supplier of ferrous scrap and is also able to move deliveries efficiently via barges and rails within the region."

The EU is the world's largest exporting region of ferrous scrap, with it tallying an export volume of 17.4 million mt in 2020, as well as 1.6 million mt of copper, aluminum and nickel scrap, and 100,000 mt of precious metals scrap, according to the European Commission.

According to EU Comext data, 74.44% of the EU's ferrous scrap went to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and 25.56% to non-OECD countries on average in 2018 and 2019, with Turkey being the largest single destination.

Marco addressed the perceived misconception on ferrous scrap, of it being likened to a "dirty" or "gray" feedstock being an erroneous one, as it provided benefits to the environment as opposed to using virgin raw materials to produce steel.

"Using recycled steel saves energy and virgin raw material use. It reduces air pollution, water use, water pollution, and mining wastes," he said. "The benefit to the environment is tremendous. That is why the collection, recycling, and treatment [processing] of this raw material must be improved worldwide to aid more scrap-based production. But although scrap is reusable forever, there is just not enough of it globally, and the continuation to meet the world's steel demand has to come alongside the use of iron ore and coal as well."

Recycling steel not only aids the EU economy in terms of gross domestic product contribution, but it helps it to achieve reductions in carbon and greenhouse gases emissions, and to achieve a more circular economy, he said.

This also falls in line with the European Steel Association's Low Carbon Roadmap to achieve a CO2-neutral industry by 2050.

Carbon emissions were envisioned to be reduced by 80%-95% by 2050 from 1990 levels, according to the roadmap. However, this push could see an estimated increase of 35%-100% in terms of production cost for every mt of steel by then, because of the adaptation of new technologies and energy usage.

Marco's comments also echoed global efforts to reduce carbon emissions by using more recycled steel, which has inevitably led to increased demand even in Asia, particularly from producers using the more carbon emissions-heavy blast furnace route.

Industry sources said by increasing the uptake of recycled steel in the BOF process, it would provide a quick solution to reduce steelmaking's CO2 emissions, in comparison to hefty costs that would be incurred for radical structural changes. Though industry sources also cited that the lack of availability of high quality scrap currently would act as a limiting factor on its increased dependency as a solution.

"The future in steel production is toward using more metallics like HBI [hot briquetted iron] and scrap," Marco added.