Japan’s second-largest steelmaker JFE Steel [5411:JP] plans to transform one of its blast furnaces into an electric arc furnace (EAF) by 2028, as reported by Nikkei Asia on August 26. This will be the first time that any of Japan’s three major steel enterprises plan to electrify their blast furnaces. According to people familiar with the matter, JFE Steel will replace the No. 2 blast furnace at its Kurashiki plant in western Japan with an EAF, which is expected to reduce 75% of carbon dioxide emissions compared with blast furnaces. As blast furnaces require a refurbishment every 20 to 25 years, the No. 2 blast furnace is meant to be renovated in the next five to six years if not replaced by the EAF.
Global steelmakers are facing increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions and pollution. In Japan, the steelmaking industry accounted for almost 40% of the country’s industrial carbon emissions. Different from blast furnaces that use iron ore and coke to make steel, the EAFs melt scrap iron using electricity and cause less pollution. In 2021, around 30% of the world’s crude steel was manufactured by the EAFs, with the rest produced by blast furnaces. According to consultancy Wood Mackenzie, the share of EAF is expected to grow to 48% by 2050 when the global steelmaking industry would see its carbon emissions drop by 30% compared to 2021 levels.