Steel Mills

AISTech 2023: Decarb on Menu at President's Breakfast

Decarbonization was the order of the day at the AISTech 2023 President’s Award Breakfast on Tuesday.

clean energyOther issues highlighted included workforce availability and bringing more women into the steel industry.

With over 1,300 attendees present at the breakfast in Huntington Place in Detroit, and hundreds more watching online, the AIST Board of Directors Awards were handed out, which included Steelmaker of the Year honors to Leon Topalian, chair, president, and CEO of Nucor.

In his acceptance speech, Topalian described the award as a “humbling honor” and was quick to thank Nucor’s more than 31,000 team members whom he described as the “greatest manufacturing army in the world.”

“We stand on the shoulders of giants in the steel industry,” Topalian said. He mentioned that Ken Iverson, the former head of Nucor who is considered a pioneer of EAF steelmaking in the US, had received the first such award in 1991.

For current events, Topalian pointed out the importance of US trade policy, saying that “the men and women of the US steel industry can outcompete anybody” when there is a level playing field.

Also in that vein, he applauded the “American manufacturing renaissance” occurring with all the reshoring of industry happening domestically.

With low-carbon emissions in manufacturing – and in steel production in particular – so important right now, the keynote presentation was delivered by John Brett, CEO of ArcelorMittal North America, and entitled Decarbonization – A Path Forward.

Brett emphasized that ArcelorMittal’s approach was not a “one size fits all” for decarbonization. He said that while net-zero carbon emissions are crucially important, concrete global plans for to deliver on this are still in their infancy.

While increasing the use of scrap in steelmaking, notably in the use of EAFS, will reduce CO2 emissions, he said the quantity of scrap is limited.

“Primary steelmaking will be around for at least 50 more years,” Brett said, adding that decarbonization in primary steelmaking is one focus of ArcelorMittal.

On the EAF side, he spoke about direct-reduced iron (DRI) and hot-briquetted iron (HBI), noting ArcelorMittal NA’s AM/NS Calvert EAF joint venture in Alabama where the company is looking into doubling capacity. Also, ArcelorMittal’s HBI operation in Corpus Christi, Texas, that helps to feed AM/NS Calvert. This is part of its “circular strategy.”

Some other topics mentioned were hydrogen injection for BFs, bio-coal, and ArcelorMittal’s Xcarb fund, which provides $500 million in funding for tech companies researching decarbonization.

With decarbonization as a priority, Brett emphasized the superiority of steel to other building materials in this regard. Being infinitely recyclable without quality loss and a lower-carbon footprint relative to other materials are just some of its advantages. “We need to talk about this much more,” he said.

“We are in a standards race with other materials,” he added. “We need to win.”

AISTech is taking place May 8-11 in Detroit. More info on the President’s Award Breakfast can be found here.

By Ethan Bernard,

Latest in Steel Mills