Tata Steel secures electricity connection for low-carbon furnace

Pictured: Port Talbot steel works, Wales

The transition is expected to be completed by the end of 2027. The site’s two existing blast furnaces will come offline by the end of this year and will be replaced with one 3.2-tonne electric arc furnace, with construction set to start in 2025.

Funding for the project was announced in September last year; the UK Government is set to provide £500m and Tata will pay the rest of the £1.25bn bill.

By some estimates, electric arc furnaces can cut greenhouse gas emissions from the steel production process by 75%. Savings can be even higher when recycled materials are used.

Tata Steel UK’s chief executive Rajesh Nair said: “Having access to higher-power electricity is a foundation stone for greener steelmaking, regardless of the technology choice. That’s why we’ve been working closely with the ESO and National Grid for a number of years on how to strengthen our power infrastructure.

“This agreement means we will have sufficient power for our new electric arc furnace and the capability in the longer-term to further strengthen our business.”

Just transition?

While a transition away from blast furnaces is necessary to align the global steel sector with the Paris Agreement, the way in which the transition has been designed in Port Talbot has sparked an outcry from the local community and from trade unions.

By some estimates, up to 2,800 jobs at the site, which currently employs around 4,000 people, will be lost.

Tata has maintained that its options were either the total closure of Port Talbot and its other UK steel bases, or the electric arc furnace route. Some think-tanks and unions have argued that hydrogen technology options should have been on the table to safeguard more jobs.

Decision-makers at Tata recently told MPs that they are looking to secure £80m from the UK Government to put towards a £100-130m fund to retrain workers.

Industry Minister Alan Mak said the Government’s support for the steel industry will be “unwavering” during the low-carbon transition.

The Young Foundation and the Institute for Community Studies warned earlier this year that existing environmental policies in the UK could push already vulnerable families and communities further into deprivation and exclusion. The organisations are calling for Ministers to offer revamped policies to give prioritisation to decarbonisation options that also create and/or safeguard jobs and livelihoods.

Related feature: What is a Just Transition? And why do we need one?

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    We would do well to remember that the electricity to run these units will come. in main, from natural gas, via gas turbines.
    The only fully controllable, non-carbon, electrical energy source which we have, is nuclear.
    Even after the present new-build reactors, we will still have room in our base demand for more nuclear energy.

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