Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen is confident BlueScope will still be making steel in 100 years’ time, but the method will be “very, very different”.
Mr Bowen was at Port Kembla Steelworks this week to announce a $136.8 million grant towards the company’s $1 billion rebuild of its No 6 blast furnace.
BlueScope announced the upgrade project last year after it had been on hold while the company investigated other options to produce “green steel”.
However, CEO Mark Vassella said at the time there was no other technology on the market that could maintain the plant’s output after 2026, when No 5 blast furnace reaches the end of its life.
“We are actively exploring options for the longer-term, large-scale decarbonisation of our operations, in order to realise our vision of low emissions iron and steelmaking in Australia,” Mr Vassella said.
This week’s funding announcement, under the Powering the Regions Fund (PRF), includes $63.2 million for South Australia’s Liberty Steel towards a low carbon electric arc furnace to replace the existing traditional blast furnace at the Whyalla Steelworks.
Mr Bowen said BlueScope and Liberty were both on a decarbonisation journey – “they’ve got different pathways but the same destination, that is green steel”.
“Green steel isn’t yet commercial anywhere in the world, but you need to work with companies like BlueScope and Liberty to help them make it commercial, and what this particular investment in the No 6 blast furnace in Port Kembla does is really give BlueScope the time to continue their investments in decarbonisation,” he told ABC Radio.
“BlueScope is approaching its 100th anniversary in Port Kembla, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be making steel in 100 years’ time in Port Kembla, but it will be very, very different.
“It will be net zero steel, and that’s not going to happen easily and it’s not going to happen without big investments – big investments from the BlueScope Board, and given it’s a national endeavour, big investments from the government as well.”
The BlueScope project will employ about 250 additional workers on-site during the upgrade and reline of the blast furnace.
“This $200 million investment in the steel sector is about securing the long-term future of the steel industry in Australia,” Mr Bowen said.
“As we undergo the transformation to net zero it is vital that we support our industries to adopt and manufacture cleaner technologies.
“Steel is essential for our energy transformation. Ninety per cent of the materials that go into making a wind turbine are steel and cement, and we’re going to need a lot more of it.
“Total steel demand for the energy transformation from 2022 to 2050 will be almost 5 billion tonnes, accounting for 75 per cent of the total material requirement – and that steel will increasingly be green steel.”