Zero-waste and carbon-neutral: £35m programme launched to transform UK steel sector

UK steelmakers and university experts are teaming together on a seven-year research programme aimed at boosting the productivity of the steel sector by championing carbon capture techniques and minimising industrial waste streams.

SUSTAIN will aim to transform the entire supply chain of the steel sector

SUSTAIN will aim to transform the entire supply chain of the steel sector

The £35m SUSTAIN programme has been launched by more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry, including companies, trade bodies, research organisations and academic experts.

The programme aims to double the gross added value of UK steel manufacturers by 2030, increasing the number of jobs to 35,000 and boosting productivity by 15%. To meet these aims, SUSTAIN will investigate new ways of harnessing new energy sources, capturing carbon emissions and reprocessing industrial waste streams. The programme envisions that the industry will reach zero-waste and carbon-neutral status by 2040.

SUSTAIN’s deputy director, Dr Cameron Pleydell-Pearce at Swansea University, said: “This news is a massive vote of confidence in the steel industry. It will support the industry’s vision for a responsible, innovative and creative future. We are already on the road to clean, green and smart steelmaking, but this is another giant step forward.

"Research and innovation are the bedrock of a modern steel industry. This network represents almost the whole UK steel sector, with researchers and companies working together on an unprecedented scale. Here in Swansea, we’re proud to lead it.”

SUSTAIN will aim to transform the entire supply chain of the steel sector, focusing on new ways to acquire data to improve efficiencies along the value chain.

The network will be supported by £12.5m for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, along with significant investment from the steel companies within the UK.

UK Steel Director General Gareth Stace added: “This new boost of innovation funding into the sector is a vital piece of the puzzle to help deliver our vision of a cutting-edge, vibrant, and sustainable steel industry in the UK.

“The future success of our sector rests on our ability to remain at the forefront of product and process innovation, delivering the new steel products demanded by our customers and society. This new hub will enable us to do just that.”

Saving steel

The steel industry accounts for around 7% of global emissions, and companies within the sector have been seeking ways to lower their environmental impact.

Lat year, Tata Steel unveiled new technology that is able to reduce the carbon emissions from iron and steel production by more than 50%. The firm implemented the new technology at its Ijmuiden site in the Netherlands.

More broadly, new technologies such as battery storage and solar could "inspire a new industrial revolution" and save the manufacturing sector at least £540m on its energy bills.

Matt Mace


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