Steelmaker Nucor Sets Sights on Net-Zero Emissions Targets

Produced steel on a shelf in a factory

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Nov 15, 2023

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Steel manufacturer Nucor is setting its sights on net-zero greenhouse gas emission targets for 2050 and released new interim targets for 2030.

The 2050 and 2030 targets include scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions from the production of hot-rolled steel. The move makes Nucor the first diversified steelmaker in the United States to set GHG reduction targets that cover all three scopes. 

Nucor previously said in 2021 it aims to cut its scope 1 and 2 GHG intensity by 35% by 2030. The new targets replace those efforts, which used 2015 as a baseline. 

The targets are defined by the Global Steel Climate Council’s (GSCC) “Steel Climate Standard,” which aligns with the Paris Climate Agreement’s emission reduction goals for the steel sector by 2050, as well as the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy System. The IEA’s guide sets out a cost-effective and economically productive pathway to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050. The Paris Climate Agreement is an international treaty on climate change that aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We are the North American leader in sustainable steelmaking, and these targets further highlight our leadership role in developing clean solutions for the entire steel industry, as well as empowering our customers to meet their business and environmental goals successfully,” Leon Topalian, chair, president and CEO of Nucor, said in a statement. “In recent years, we have made purposeful investments to increase the availability of carbon-free electricity, and to support other emerging technologies that will help lead the way to a clean industrial future.”

Decarbonizing Steel Production

Nucor’s efforts come as other initiatives to decarbonize the steel industry are underway. Iron and steel production accounts for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. 

One of the proposed solutions to reduce emissions in the space is electric arc furnaces, which may be used instead of emissions-heavy blast furnaces, and they have the potential to be run on 100% renewable energy. Additionally, increased use of scrap and green feedstocks, such as direct reduced iron, will be a key factor in decarbonizing steel production, according to a recent report from Wood Mackenzie that focused on the transformation of the steel industry.

Other steel companies are taking action, too. United States Steel converted two of its diesel locomotives into battery-operated locomotives, helping reduce emissions for the company’s operations in Pennsylvania.

Nucor coins itself as “one of the cleanest steel producers in the world,” using a circular production process that uses an average of nearly 80% recycled scrap and has one-third the greenhouse gas emissions intensity compared to the traditional steelmaking process. 

The company plans to reach its net zero goals by increasing the use of clean electricity, carbon capture and sequestration, and near-zero GHG ironmaking. Plus, it will reduce consumption of injection and charge carbon, as well as reduce the use of natural gas in production processes.

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