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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S013318/1
Title: Critical Technological Assessment of the Viability of Future UK Steel Production
Principal Investigator: Li, Professor Z
Other Investigators:
Davis, Professor C Seetharaman, Professor S Godsell, Professor J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr SRA Spooner
Project Partners:
British Steel Ltd Liberty House Group (UK) (replace) Tata Steel
Department: WMG
Organisation: University of Warwick
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2019 Ends: 31 December 2020 Value (£): 408,703
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufact. Business Strategy Materials Processing
Waste Minimisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Aug 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 7 and 8 August 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
There is a significant future UK demand opportunity for the UK steel industry, and a sustainable UK steel industry is vitally important to the UK's future growth prospects especially considering the now independent trading market the country is moving into. On the other hand, steel production is a major industrial contributor to CO2 emissions with on average 1.8 tonnes of CO2 produced per tonne of rolled coil via the integrated BF-BOF (blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace) route, while the scrap-based EAF (electric arc furnace) route in general only produces a quarter of the CO2 emissions compared to the BF-BOF route. Crude steel was produced in the UK at about 80-20% split between the BF-BOF integrated route and scrap-based EAF route, respectively.

The UK steel industry is being affected by grand trends and challenges, for example, strict environmental regulations, new energy and materials sources, global over-capacity and ever increasing customer requirements for high quality steel products. Additionally, it faces these challenges with little/no natural resources and higher energy cost compared to the EU and wider global competitors. However, with a potential change in technology strategy, significant advantages can be made through the exploitation of the abundant supply of UK generated steel scrap.

The prospect of moving to a scrap-based EAF industry as a low CO2 production pathway has been widely discussed because of the success of the business model in the US (e.g. Nucor) and Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey. This, linked with the current over-supply of steel scrap in the UK and its projected growth in quantity into the 2020's, gives, at the surface, a motivation for a scrap-based manufacturing route. However although the needed physical mass of scrap to cover UK supply requirements is likely to be available, the quality and thus applicability to the specific use of steel in our society is yet unknown. Currently the EAF route cannot produce certain high quality steel grades that the BF-BOF route is capable of, such as the high quality strip steels required by the automotive industry, a significant UK user of UK produced steel. In addition any viable UK steel industry needs to consider the current asset base and future UK energy strategy (for example, EAF route requires significantly higher electrical energy input). Therefore consideration of how different processing routes currently use scrap and can respond to higher scrap use (including the potential variability in scrap quality) is needed, along with an assessment of new technologies for scrap handling / sorting and steel manufacturing, all in the UK context.

The proposed research aims to evaluate the potential viable steel manufacturing routes in the UK, which can maximise the use of the abundant UK steel scrap supply for the production of high quality steel grades, meet the UK economic development (domestic consumption and export), and achieve a low carbon steel industry. Three process routes will be assessed from a technology point of view: the BF-BOF route, an alternative ironmaking-BOF route, and the scrap-based EAF route.

The project team will evaluate the distribution of scrap sources through levels of quality in a manner meaningful to the UK steel sector, including quality and accessibility while categorizing these against required outputs by different industrial sectors through the three identified potential process routes. New technologies for better scrap sorting and composition control, new steel manufacturing technologies with the potential to accommodate high residual scrap, and novel supply chain design will be explored. The proposed research will give a clear outline of a viable UK steel industry in the future and point out scientific and technological developments required to ensure the viability of the UK steel industry.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.warwick.ac.uk