A concept for a global low-carbon emissions steel standard

Today there is no industry definition or standard for low-carbon emissions steel, yet customer interest is growing, initiatives to define emissions in steel are multiplying and the risk of inconsistent standards is escalating.

The demand signals are clear and establishing such a standard has an important role to play in the decarbonisation of our industry. We need a low-carbon emissions steel standard which:

  • Provides transparency and consistency across products for customers through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) values, or Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) values in construction products
  • Incentivises decarbonisation by allowing policy makers to create differentiated lead markets for low-carbon emissions steel production that will provide steelmakers with a premium to fund capital investments

The concept for our low-emissions steel standard is based on three core principles:

The decarbonisation rating system

The graph below demonstrates the concept of how the decarbonisation rating system would work

A steel producer’s position on the graph would be based on their embodied carbon emissions per tonne of hot rolled steel (y-axis) and the metallic input they use (x-axis). The producer’s position would fall above or below a threshold line, indicating whether they would be producing low-carbon emissions steel or not.

Furthermore, steel producers which fall on or below the threshold would then be split into six bands - A+ to E - with the producer progressing through the bands as they decarbonise. This system could therefore be used by policy makers and customers to incentivise producers to further decarbonise in order to attain a higher rating (with A and A+ being the highest and the only category where producers could claim their steel to be near zero (A) or net zero (A+)).

“We know that our customers want low-carbon steel products. That is why we launched the XCarb™ green steel certificates which have proved very popular with our customers. However, these are virtual low-carbon products and we must also have a system that defines what constitutes physical low-carbon steel during the transition to near and ultimately net zero. This will help support a return on the investment required to transition to low-carbon steelmaking which will be more costly than the technologies used today. We believe it is important that any standard has a dual approach that clearly states the LCA value of the product as well as a rating to show decarbonisation progress. This makes the embodied carbon content of the product clear to customers but also the progress that producer is making towards near zero – a vital component of ensuring every company contributes to achieving the Paris Agreement.” Geert van Poelvoorde, Executive Vice President, ArcelorMittal, and CEO of ArcelorMittal Europe