Europe remains at the vanguard of steel technology, even though it has to cope with decreasing production, said major industry players at the Kallanish Europe Steel Markets 2024 conference in Milan on Wednesday.

Henrik Adam, vice president European Corporate Affairs at Tata Steel, and president of European steel federation Eurofer, pointed out Europe is currently caught in a dilemma between decarbonisation and de-industrialisation. On one hand, it is the region most ambitious – along with Japan – in transforming to low-emission steelmaking. But it has also lost much of its traditional strength in manufacturing industries to emerging countries.
With an eye on his own company, he noted that Tata’s plant in Ijmuiden, in the Netherlands, is the second-lowest CO2 emitting integrated mill worldwide.

However, Europe has lost much of his production power, not only in the volumes of steel, but also in customer sectors like solar panels, Adam said. “We have offshored production. Are we also offshoring innovation? That would be a disaster.”

Jindal Shadeed chief executive Harssha Shetty concurred. The company is managing the establishment of Oman-based green steelmaker Vulcan Green Steel. “Europe’s strength is in engineering – Europe can still play on that,” he stated. He believes that Europe can focus on engineering and depend on other regions to get its raw materials, possibly including iron. “Still, Europe is the biggest inspiration for the whole world,” he emphasised.

On the Vulcan Green steel venture, he highlighted Oman’s richness in wind and sun resources, and that the combination of both will be the key to hydrogen-based steelmaking. “Only solar or only wind may not be the optimal answer to make green steel,” he said. “True green steel is when there are fresh investments into fresh capacities to make green steel,” he added.

Meanwhile, Adam pointed to the changes in mindset brought on by the war in Europe. “The war cut Germany off from cheap Russian gas. This has shown us the danger of being too dependent on one source.” He reiterated how the country coped with that challenge pragmatically, by setting up LNG terminals in a matter of 12 months. “In the end, the one thing that matters is speed,” he concluded.