Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s declaration of “carbon neutrality in 2050” on October 26, 2020, had a huge impact on the Japanese industrial industry.
The Japanese iron and steel industry emits about 14% (150 million tons) of CO2 domestically. Therefore, in response to the Kyoto Protocol of 2005, we promptly declared a voluntary action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9% compared to 1990 levels, which we achieved. The Japan Iron and Steel Federation has since announced and steadily implemented its Low Carbon Society Action Plan. The COURSE50 project, which the three current blast furnace companies and Nippon Steel Engineering have been implementing since fiscal 2008 as a project commissioned by NEDO, aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by substituting hydrogen for part of the carbon reduction in the blast furnace process and by separating and recovering the CO2 generated. In addition, in 2018, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation (JISF) announced the world’s first “Vision for Long-term Global Warming Countermeasures: The Challenge of Zero Carbon Steel” as the direction of its long-term efforts. The term “zero-carbon steel” was coined at this time, and it is a challenging concept that aims to achieve steelmaking methods that do not rely on fossil carbon by 2100, which is consistent with the 2℃ scenario in the IEA ETP-2017.
Furthermore, from fiscal 2020, the three blast furnace manufacturers will launch a NEDO-led research project, “Technology Development for Realizing Zero Carbon Steel,” to promote new technological innovation. The Japan Iron and Steel Federation also announced its support and contribution to the government’s 2050 carbon neutral policy.
As a basic material needed by the civilized world and as a major material that supports the social life of mankind, steel must continue to be supplied in large quantities for many years to come.
As a top runner, Japan’s integrated blast furnace steelmaking, which currently has the world’s highest energy efficiency in steel production, will take on further challenges to achieve both a stable supply of this key material and a reduction in the global environmental burden.
The main source of CO2 in steelmaking is the reduction process of iron ore, and I feel that we have come to a point where we need to create a completely new way of making iron, a process that has been going on for thousands of years, in order to reduce CO2 emissions. The technological hurdles require extremely high levels of innovation, which cannot be solved by a single industry, but require diverse collaboration among other industries, government agencies, and academic institutions.
The Japanese steel industry will continue to pursue all possibilities for decarbonization together with society.