JFE aims to build electric arc furnace in 2027 to replace blast furnace

TOKYO (Reuters) – JFE Steel, Japan’s No.2 steelmaker, aims to build a new large-scale electric arc furnace (EAF) to replace the No.2 blast furnace at its Kurashiki plant in western Japan in around 2027 to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, its president said on Wednesday.

Steelmaking – one of the most CO2-intense industrial production processes – is under pressure to cut CO2 emissions to help tackle climate change.

JFE, a unit of JFE Holdings, by 2030 aims to lower its emissions by 30% versus 2013 levels.

JFE is considering building an EAF that can produce 2 million metric tons of high-grade steel a year in around 2027 when the No.2 unit is due for refurbishment, JFE President Yoshihisa Kitano said.

He noted the EAF would reduce CO2 emissions by 2.6 million tons a year from current levels emitted by the blast furnace.

“We are thinking of building one of the world’s largest EAFs to produce high quality steel to be used for automotive steel sheets and electrical steel sheets,” Kitano told reporters and analysts. Currently, such steel is produced in blast furnaces.

JFE plans to import low-carbon steel-making raw material, or “reduced iron” produced using natural gas and carbon capture storage (CCS), from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Reduced iron is produced by removing oxygen from the iron ore to make metallic iron without melting it.

“By utilising low-carbon materials, we want to realise the world’s first large-scale supply system for green high-grade steel that is comparable to the blast furnace method,” he said.

In July, JFE signed a memorandum of understanding with Japanese trading house Itochu and Emirates Steel Arkan, the UAE’s largest steelmaker, to create a green iron supply chain.

JFE is also working to develop new and cleaner steelmaking methods at blast furnaces using hydrogen and methanation, but the use of EAF is a feasible and quick solution to reducing emissions during the transition period, Kitano said.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; editing by Jason Neely)