The need for better infrastructure has led to an increase in the need for steel supply and steel products
. The steel companies in India
are adopting various new technologies in order to increase productivity, and improve the quality of infrastructure. In this context, let us take a look at the current trends, challenges that are present in the today’s industry and how these challenges are being met by the leaders in the industry along with them voicing for change in order to reduce the global warming and environmental impacts that are caused by the industry.
Crude steel production has adapted over these past few years and is now mainly about electric steelmaking based on scrap and oxygen steelmaking based on molten pig iron. With improvements in the design of equipment and higher qualities of electrodes, refractories and other inputs leading to small improvements in efficiency and incremental changes to the process itself.
There is also development of iron making technology because of the need for the quality of steel and scrap supply. Usage of coke to develop primary iron causing environmental problems and the constant increase in the prices of coking coal have made the players to look for options other than using coke to produce primary iron.
Making steel sustainable
"Reduce, Recycle and Reuse would help India decrease its dependency on imports, reduce carbon footprints and lead us to become self-reliant through 'Make in India' initiative" says Ish Mohan Garg, Calderys Vice President - SW Asia.
In order to reduce the environmental impact of the steel industry, neglecting the usage of carbon dioxide from steel production all together is one method that is trending. Carbon di oxide is emitted because of the usage of coking coal that is needed for ore based steel making. This is replaced hydrogen produced from fossil free electricity and thus the carbon footprint is controlled.
The challenges that are hindering the growth of the steel industry are that the price of the raw materials is volatile, and there is a lack of technology adoption.
Volatility of price of raw materials
"The raw materials price trend on the international procurement markets was volatile with respect to the determinant raw materials such as iron ore, coking coal and scrap," the Salzgitter Company said in its fourth-quarter earnings report (2019).
As of January 2021, many auto and consumer appliance companies have hiked the prices of their products. This is because of the problems arising in the supply chain. The cost of production has increased for most manufacturers because of the price hike in raw materials such as steel. For the automobiles, steel constitute as raw material consumption up to 70%. The steel price in India is volatile causing hindrance for the manufacturers.
Lack of technology adoption
In India, steep hike in energy costs and escalation of costs of other inputs have reduced the margin of profit of the steel plants. This has hindered the investment in technological development for the industry. Subsequently, the steel industry has fallen behind in competition with regards to technology when compared with other countries.
The productivity rate in countries like Japan and Korea is at 1.1 tonnes of crude steel is required to produce a tonne of saleable steel whereas in India 1.2 tonnes is required.
The future trends that are to be expected in the steel industry are nanotechnology improving the quality of products, circular economy to manage the wastage produced.
Nanotechnology to be used increasingly in the steel industry
"Thin films are solid state substances that can be only several atomic layers thick. Usually, their properties are considerably different from the properties of the original substances on the macroscale. The areas of their application keep expanding and include nanoelectronics, optoelectronics, spintronics, electro, and photocatalysis, as well as such important fields of economics as space technologies and instrument building. Micromodule devices for space crafts and medical technologies are also promising areas in which thin films can be used," said Vyacheslav Fominski, a project supervisor representing MEPhI.
Nanotechnology is a growing trend that is being applied in various fields providing revolutionary methods in the respective fields. Applying this technology in the steel industry would mean producing never before requested materials that would be new to the customers. There are a few ways in which nanotechnology would change the steel industry. The first is that nanotechnology is to be utilized more in electronics products such as nanoscale transistors made out of carbon nanotubes. The minute scale makes it possible to print thin and highly flexible items such as plastic solar panels, electric textiles and flexible gas sensors.
Nanotechnology is a growing trend that is being applied in various fields providing revolutionary methods in the respective fields.
It could also greatly improve the durability of the products as it reduces friction and many such issues. This is done by using metal chalcogenides i.e compounds of transition metals with sulfur, selenium and tellurium. Researchers are now studying the films consisted of four elements: molybdenum, sulfur, carbon and hydrogen.
Nanotechnology offers improvement in the fatigue under cyclic loading. Experiments done by researchers show positive effect of nano – coating layers of Zinc Oxide on the fatigue life of rotating steel bars. This improves the fatigue life of rotating steel bars by about four times as nano tech reduces the ability to initiation and growing of micro cracks on the surface.
Without a proper life cycle management, the management of industrial wastes produced in the steel industry is unmanageable. Circular economy is a business model where the products are to be reused, repaired, returned and recycled. The aim of a circular economy is to rebuild capital in order to enhance the flow of products and services. The four main subparts in the circular economy are: reduce, reuse, remanufacture and recycle.
With improvements in technology and proper planning, the amount of material to be used is to be reduced along with the weight of the products. Investment in research has improved the quality of the products making them high – strength steel grades in many applications.
The durability of steel allows for reuse or repurpose steel in many sectors such as automotive components, buildings, train rails and many others. Reuse is implemented in sectors where it is technically allowed to do so thus not neglecting safety.
Remanufacturing allows the used products to be made as comparable to new products. This is different from repairing as this process disassembles and restores with new parts also to be included.
Steel is known for its recyclable quality as it is 100 per cent recyclable. Recycled steel maintains the inherent properties. Steel’s magnetic property allows it to be separated from other waste products easily and also the steel scrap has high value which offers economic gains as well. Steel is the most recycled material in the world today with over 650 Mt of steel being recycled annually including pre and post - consumer scrap.
The government and the steel Industry are taking measures in order to maximize these benefits of steel and gathering the help of the entire supply chain for the same purpose.
With the need for Infrastructure on the rise in India, the need for steel is to increase rapidly. The steel Industry experts also share the same view expecting rise in the demand for steel and steel products.