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ArcelorMittal South Africa to get an electric arc furnace

By Larry Claasen

ARCELORMITTAL South Africa says it is still committed to its decarbonisation roadmap that will see it become net-zero producer of carbon by 2050.

As part of this plan, the steel maker wants to reduce its carbon intensity by 25% by 2030, from a 2018 baseline of 2,90 tons of CO2  ton of crude steel to 2,16 COof crude steel according to its 2023 Decarbonisation Roadmap.

The 2030 goal is the group’s immediate concern, says group manager, stakeholder engagement and communication, Tami Didiza.

“The main focus for ArcelorMittal South Africa at the moment is to achieve the 25% reduction by 2030. There is a lot that needs to develop beyond 2030 in terms of technology to achieve net zero by 2050.”

One of its plans to achieve its decarbonisation goals is to replace one of its two blast furnaces at Vanderbijlpark, named C and D. These have annual production capacities of 1,3-million tons and 1,9-million tons respectively of molten iron, and account for a “significant amount” of carbon emissions.

The plan is to replace C with an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) that uses natural gas and make changes to D and have it returned to service as a “low-carbon enabled furnace.”

When it comes to replacing C, Didiza says it is making progress.

“ArcelorMittal South Africa has completed the studies on the EAF for Vanderbijlpark and is  currently in the market for a quotation for the EAF. This is all part of the program to have it up and running in Q3 2028.”

When it comes to the cost of the new EAF, Didiza says: “We have good estimates. We are currently in the market to firm up the prices for the specific design.”

Aside from its plans at Vanderbijlpark, the roadmap also said it planned to produce direct reduced iron (DRI) at its Midrex plant in Saldanha using natural gas. 

Didiza said the group was still looking into the feasibility of the Saldanha project.

“The initiative is currently in the pre-feasibility stage which should be finalised during the course of this year. Depending on the final outcome ArcelorMittal will take the decision whether or not to proceed to the feasibility stage.”

In the roadmap, ArcelorMittal noted that green hydrogen DRI would “require significant public support.”

Didiza says this project is not at the stage where it would need to make financing decisions.  “There is much more work required to get this project to that stage.”

One of the hurdles noted in the roadmap was the lack of clarity on energy pricing on the part of energy regulator Nersa and power utility Eskom. It warned that the financial viability of its renewables procurement will be influenced by Eskom/Nersa’s pricing structures, as well as wheeling charges – the fee for transmitting electricity over the grid.

Didiza says the pricing issue remains unresolved. 

“We are in the final stages of developing our 200MW embedded solution at our Vanderbijlpark facility. Eskom approval is delaying the project.”

Though the group is committed to decarbonisation, it noted in the roadmap that circumstances might force it to change its plans.

“We caution that this roadmap is by no means cast in stone and, as stated above, how we eventually implement our energy transition will almost certainly differ, in both detail and substance, from that outlined here.”

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