Bonn 2012: Taiwan’s biggest polluter eyes up green benefits

By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Bonn

The China Steel Corporation is Taiwan’s biggest polluter.

Its blast furnace, oxygen furnace and rolling mill consume vast quantities of coal and coke – which are needed to raise the temperature to a scorching 1500oC.

The vast Koahsuing-based conglomerate provides steel for use in domestic markets and mainland China. And it emits approximately 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

In many ways this company represents the major challenge for policymakers as they struggle to develop a low-carbon economy.

Taiwan and Koahsing need the steel to drive their construction, ship-building and car industries. But they also need it to clean up its act to meet their regional and national emission targets.

And unlikely as this may sound (as the greenwash accusations start flying) it appears that in this quest they have found an unlikely ally – the company itself.

Costs driving cuts

We spoke to Timothy Tseng, General Manager, Utilities Department at China Steel Corporation – you can watch the interview below.

He was unexpectedly frank about the issues they face in cutting emissions – but also clear about why it’s a problem they are determined to tackle.

In short, Tseng’s company have discovered that high emissions equal high costs and are a sign of inefficiency. And they believe even a steel furnace – the very picture of a ‘dark satanic mill’ – can be run using fewer resources.

“Seven years ago our company is the top number five of the best, most profitable steel companies. That was a very good market for those seven years but after the economic tsunami, the financial tsunami, the steel market is still going slowly,” Tseng told RTCC.

The company is working alongside the Koahsuing City government – who aim to turn one of the world’s dirtiest cities into one of the greenest – to attempt to find ways to limit the impact of their steel production.

For them, using less water and producing less waste products means a more sustainable system – and a more profitable business.

“If there is any new technology which we didn’t take up until now, them we will introduce that new technology into our company to reduce the energy consumption and to lower the CO2 emissions,” he said.

“For example originally our company was running the coking process by water quenching. And because the slack is very hot we need a cooling for the water, but all of the waste heat was going up into the atmosphere.”

The quenching process involves plunging the steel into a liquid in order to temper – add strength to – it.

When the steel hits the water, the water adjacent vaporises and the remaining water boils from the heat from the steel.

Much of this water vapour and steam is then lost into the atmosphere.

“We lose our energy and we lose our water,” Tseng continues. “So after we learn from another steel mill and introduce coke dry quenching. We don’t use water to quenching the coke instead we use nitrogen. Then we get the waste heat into steam and generate power.”

Whether or not you believe a steel production company can ever truly go green – it’s fighting talk.

And it demonstrates how fairly simply technological advances could be helping even the dirtiest of companies to limit their impact.

Capturing and storing the carbon as it is released is the ultimate challenge – but for now it is refreshing to hear big polluters apparently keen to make a difference.

What do you think? Let us know what you think about the China Steel Corporation’s decision to cut emissions via the comment form below.

Will it make a difference? Is it greenwash? Is there another source of fuel for blast furnaces other than coke and coal? You can also contact us @RTCCnewswire or email [email protected]

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