Hyundai Steel leads the way in green growthKorea
Environmental-friendliness has become a key area of competition for steelmakers as leading countries are stiffening regulations to save energy and fight clime change.
Hyundai Steel, Korea’s second-largest steel mill, is leading the efforts to reduce carbon emissions with its new integrated plant in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province that went into operation in April.
In building the plant, the company installed the world’s first enclosed raw material processing system as part of its efforts to make it a “world-class eco-friendly steelworks.”
In Hyundai Steel’s system, all movement of materials from ship to processing facilities occur on enclosed conveyor belts. In addition, the materials are stored in dome-shaped stores cutting off all contact with open air, addressing the problem of dust from coal and other materials – a major pollutant associated with steelworks – at the source.
“The storage facilities are also 2.5 times more efficient in terms of iron ore storage per pyeong (3.3 square meters) than open air storage,” a Hyundai Steel official said.
“In addition, unlike open air storage, our facilities do not require expensive nets for trapping dust and water treatment works to process rain water that carries away the raw materials.”
In addition to preventing dust and reducing the amount of land required for storage, Dangjin plant’s enclosed storage facilities also allow the company to lower fuel costs.
Enclosed storage facilities at Hyundai Steel’s integrated steelworks in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province (Hyundai Steel)
According to Hyundai Steel, the facilities maintain the water content of the materials constant at between 6 to 8 percent. In contrast, materials stored outside can contain up to 14 percent water during the rainy season and need to be evaporated leading to additional fuel costs.
However, the effect of eco-friendly technologies is not limited to the more obvious benefits of reducing pollution, but extends to the productivity of companies and nations.
And the relatively little attention given to the area in Korea throughout its economic development has taken its toll on the country.
According to a report by Oh Dong-hyun of the Samsung Economic Research Institute, while Korea ranks third among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with an average annual growth rate of 4.84 percent.
However, the country ranks 22nd in terms of green productivity, which takes into account the effects “non-economic” by-products such as greenhouse gases have on the economy, among the 32 OECD member nations. According to the SERI report, green management’s core consists of three Rs; reduce, replace and recycle. The first part consists of reducing the amount of materials used in the manufacturing process, and the weight and size of the products.
Replace refers to using alternative, more efficient materials with those with smaller environmental impact. The recycling part calls not only for reusing materials but also putting heat and other such by-products to productive use. In addition to the groundbreaking enclosed raw material storage system, Hyundai Steel’s Dangjin plant has a number of features for meeting various areas of the three Rs of green management. According to the company, the Dangjin plant is capable of recycling almost 100 percent of by-products of steelmaking.
“Coal tar and sulfur produced from processing the gas generated in producing coke is 100 percent recycled as raw materials for producing a range of chemicals including benzene and toluene,” a Hyundai Steel official said. “Slag is also used in blended cement and used to form roadbeds and as structural material in buildings.”
In addition to recycling by-products, the company has a number of measures for processing waste water, and monitoring and reducing the amount of sulfur and nitrogen oxides emissions. According to the company, gases generated during steelmaking at the Dangjin plant under go a two-step process to lower sulfur and nitrogen oxides content to well below the legal limits. Waste water generated at the plant is subjected to chemical and biological processing to maximize recycling, while the unused processed waste water is returned to the sea 300 meters away from the coastline to minimize pollution.
In addition to dealing with environmental issues in general, experts say that dealing with carbon emissions will become an increasingly important issue for the steel industry, which is one of the more carbon-intensive industries. “Once carbon emissions begin to be traded, steelmakers are will have to buy emission rights and how steelmakers deal with this is a long-term issue,” said Hi Investment and Securities Co. analyst Chung Ji-yun. Although carbon emissions are not yet traded in Korea, steelmakers have been putting in much effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and introduce alternative energy sources into their operations. Although integrated steelworks consume large amounts of energy, Hyundai Steel officials say that their recycling rate is also higher than most industrial plants. “Gas by-products from various stages can be used to generate 400 megawatts of electricity per hour,” a Hyundai official said. “Add that to output from additional generators, 3.5 million megawatt hours of electricity can be generated in a year, which is equivalent to 80 percent of an integrated steelworks’ electricity needs.” According to the company, to generate the same amount of electricity using coal would require 1.13 million tons of the fuel and generate 3.32 million tons of carbon dioxide.
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