Safeguarding the wellbeing of ArcelorMittal’s colleagues and communities is key to maintaining the company’s licence to operate at each of its sites around the world. Local communities, as well as stakeholders more widely, say emissions and their impact on air quality is their most pressing concern.
This is particularly true in the city of Temirtau, in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan, where air quality has been under the spotlight in recent years. ArcelorMittal operates an integrated steel plant here employing nearly 14,000 people, some 41% of its total workforce in Kazakhstan, and also operates iron ore and coal mines across the region.
$198m environmental investment programme
ArcelorMittal Temirtau has been instrumental in building a comprehensive environmental action plan with local stakeholders. As part of this plan, in 2018, we announced a $198m environmental investment programme. The projects in its scope will result in a series of incremental performance improvements throughout the investment plan’s implementation period to 2025.
This investment programme is primarily focussed on de-dusting a range of facilities including the lime plant, the coke shop and related processes, the sinter plant, the steel shop, blast furnace 2 and its associated storage areas. Progress made on the environmental investment plan in 2019 includes:
- Reconstruction of sinter machines 5-7 and upgrades to the de-dusting equipment in the sinter plant continues with the installation of new electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) to filter the air in the sintering zone.
- The construction of the new ESP behind rotary kiln 2 in the lime shop has been tendered and the equipment is in stock. When these projects are complete in 2021, dust emissions problems from these shops are expected to be resolved.
- The installation of bag filters in the sinter plant, lime shop, BOF shop and coke shop is nearly complete.
- The installation of automatic measurement equipment on newly installed dust cleaning equipment in the lime shop and power plants 1 and 2 to track the progress these investments make on emissions reduction, is ongoing.
- Completion of the design and engineering phases of the construction of a new biochemical plant to clean effluence generated by the coke and chemical plants.
Once the projects outlined here are complete, we expect dust emissions to be halved compared to 2018 levels. Further environmental investments are planned to bring the plant in line with European requirements.
Modernising power generation at the steel plant
The majority of ArcelorMittal Temirtau’s dust emissions come from its power plants 1 & 2, which supply both the steel plant and the city of Temirtau. The company is in talks with the government over plans to construct a natural gas pipeline to Temirtau. If it is possible to provide the steel plant with a reliable, adequate and affordable source of natural gas, the company plans to end its use of coal-fired boilers in favour of those using natural gas, which would significantly reduce emissions from the power plants.
Experts at ArcelorMittal Temirtau are laying the groundwork for this prospective modernisation, having prepared the technical documentation for a pipeline design from Saryarka to the company’s premises, and are beginning a tendering process for the design and construction of the pipeline. Already underway is the design phase for the new boilers and equipment supplies have begun arriving on site.
If the proposed switch to using natural gas in its power plants is successful, there will be additional environmental benefits, since it would enable the company to virtually eliminate SOx and most of the NOx emissions coming from those facilities. Currently, these NOx and SOx emissions come primarily from burning local coal and masut, which is generally high in sulphur, and this varies each year depending on the coal seam exploited. Such emissions have been declining slowly since 2016, with NOx emissions reducing from 14.3 thousand tonnes in 2016, to an estimated 12.4 thousand tonnes in 2019, and SOx from 52.9 thousand tonnes in 2016, to an expected 44.4 thousand tonnes in 2019. The company is now keen to make further progress here once the necessary infrastructure is in place to enable its power plants’ transition to natural gas.
Responding to stakeholder concerns
While improvements are ongoing, our operations are, from time to time, subject to stakeholder concern. ArcelorMittal Temirtau aims to respond by listening, assessing the evidence and communicating the results of investigations. For example, in 2019 Temirtau residents had expressed concern over emissions from the steel mill and the effect these have on air quality in the city. The local authorities found there was no evidence to substantiate this and the company published an update on these findings. Following this, the newspaper which had started the discussion, published an interview with our Executive Director, Vadim Basin on the issues involved.
Stakeholders have also asked about the high rate of cancer incidence recorded by the Health Department of the Karaganda region in October 2019. Further analysis reveals that the incidence rate in Temirtau city, where our steel operations are located, is 21% lower than the average across the Karaganda region.
In 2019, the company has been subject to two environmental fines: of KZT 134,613 (US$350) in Q1 for contamination of the Samarkand water reservoir and KZT 883,750 (US$2,300) in Q3 for a smouldering fire on the rock waste dump. In relation to its coal operations, ArcelorMittal was subject to fines of some KZT 21 million (US$54,000) In March 2019 and KZT 243 million (US$631,000) in July 2019.
For further information on ArcelorMittal’s activities and environmental performance in Kazakhstan, stakeholders should consult its corporate responsibility report, prepared in line with international sustainability reporting guidelines, GRI.