The increased electrification of steelmaking in Europe will lift scrap consumption and result in shortages of the feedstock, ultimately making its import necessary. The region must act to limit exports of this increasingly strategic material, while closed-loop recycling systems, such as established by Outokumpu in Finland, are the future, Kallanish heard at an industry event.

Although hydrogen-based direct reduced iron is widely touted as the basis for a decarbonised steel industry, and the technology is ready, the energy requirement is currently prohibitive, ArcelorMittal Poland (AMP) head of corporate governance & government affairs, head of energy & environment office Tomasz Slezak said at the European Steel Congress in Katowice on Tuesday.

Given the regulatory pressure and decarbonisation course already set, “we don’t have another option” but to transform to EAF-based production using scrap, Slezak observed. Poland now has a huge scrap surplus that it exports, but in the not-so-distant future this will turn into a deficit, with strong competition among mills. Prices will therefore increase, pushing up production costs.

One example of this competition will be that between ArcelorMittal Poland and Weglokoks’ prospective steelworks (see separate story).

Polish Steel Association (HIPH) chief executive Mirosław Motyka pointed out that Poland could utilise more of its scrap resources, over 1.2 million tonnes of which it exported in the first half of 2023, up 13% on-year. Consumption in the period was down 18% to 2.4mt. Exports are going to countries that produce steel, which then gets shipped back to Poland. These countries may adhere to weak or no ESG standards, making them unsuitable business partners for Europe, Motyka explained.

Scrap recycling standards in Poland are very high and suppliers are ready to cater for increased domestic demand, said ArcelorMittal Recykling Polska board member Piotr Gluzniewicz. Besides regular destination markets Germany and Czech Republic, Polish exporters have in recent years started shipping material to Turkey and the Indian subcontinent, he added.

A high level of recycling will be important, in order to remove impurities, as EAF mills become increasingly active in the production of flat products, as is the case in the US, said Motyka. Components such as tin and copper will need to be carefully removed. As for zinc in scrap, this gets converted during EAF steelmaking into dust, which can also be recycled, added Slezak.