Low Carbon Economy, 2011, 2, 115-122
doi:10.4236/lce.2011.23015 Published Online September 2011 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/lce)
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. LCE
Combining Steel and Chemical Production to
Reduce CO2 Emissions
Jouko Arvola, Janne Harkonen, Matti Mottonen, Harri Haapasalo, Pekka Tervonen
Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
Email: {jouko.arvola, janne.harkonen, matti.mottonen, harri.haapasalo}@oulu.fi; pekka.tervonen@ruukki.com
Received July 4th, 2011; revised July 31st, 2011; accepted August 8th, 2011.
New legislation and emissions trading increase pressures for the industry to find new environmentally sound solu tions.
This research analyses the utilisation of carbon monoxide (CO), formed in steel mills from the emissions reduction
viewpoint. The resea rch studies possibilities of combin ing steel and chemical p roductions fro m economic and environ-
mental perspectives. The analysis includes considering emissions costs and electricity price, when CO is converted into
chemical products. The results prove the economic profitability of a steel mill selling CO gas to a chemical producer
instead of using it for energy production, while CO2 emissions are simultaneously reduced.
Keywords: Emissions Trading, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Steel Industry, Chemical Industry, Sustainability
1. Introduction
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other green house gases are a
widely recognised problem [1-5]. Use of carbon-based
raw materials is largely the origin behind CO2 increase in
the atmosphere. The global atmospheric concentration of
CO2 has increased from a pre-industrial value of about
280 ppm to 379 ppm [6].
New environmental legislation aims to tackle the ef-
fects of carbon dioxide emissions. The Kyoto Protocol
treaty was negotiated to reduce the global greenhouse gas
emissions in a globally coordinated manner [2]. The Eu-
ropean Union countries in their “Energy policy for Eu-
rope” have set targets for national energy policies [7].
EU is committed to reducing its overall emissions, cal-
culated as CO2, to at least 20% below the 1990 levels by
Steel industry is a significant emissions source as
globally 6% - 7% of CO2 is caused by steel manufactur-
ing [8]. The emissions in steel industry are influenced by
used production routes, product mix, production energy
efficiency, fuel mix, carbon intensity of the fuel mix, and
electricity carbon intensity [8]. The production of steel
has increased almost steadily during the last 40 years
from 595 Mt/a in 1970 to 1327 Mt/a in 2008 [9]. Steel
mill emissions are included in emissions trade scheme
(ETS) [10], and consequently it is worthwhile consider-
ing new ways to reduce CO2 emissions.
About 60 % of steel is made in blast furnaces (BF)
through iron ore reduction [11], on which this article
concentrates. Other alternatives, scrap steel melting in
electronic furnaces and direct reduction of iron are out of
the scope of this study.
A typical BF based steel mill consists of a coking plant,
BF, basic oxygen furnace (BOF) , power house, hot strip
mill and a sinter plant. Process gases are produced in
coking plant, in BF and in BOF. Typically, 69% of CO2
gases originate from BF, 7% from BOF gas and 6% from
coke oven. The remaining 18% originate from other fos-
sil fuels imported into a steel mill. Besides considering
the origin of CO2, one should also analyse from which
physical locations the CO2 comes out as emissions.
Typically 39% of CO2 emissions exit from a power plant,
19% from coke ovens, 14% from a sinter plant, 12%
from heating hot stoves in BF, and the rest from other
sources [12].
The literature discusses different ways of reducing
CO2 emissions in steel industry. As an example, CO2
capture and storage combined with top gas recycling in
blast furnaces, and use of charcoal instead of coal are
considered as possibilities to reduce emissions [13-16].
In addition, Diemer et al. [17] present different ways of
reducing CO2 emissions by seeking for alternative uses
for coke oven gases in steel mills.
One potential sustainable way to reduce CO2 emis-
sions is to utilise the CO2 from industrial processes to
produce various chemicals, material and fuels [18]. CO2
Combining Steel and Chemical Production to Reduce CO Emissions
116 2
emissions can also be reduced by removing already
formed CO2 and storing it permanently. In steel industry
one solution is to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) from
converting into CO2. Some authors have reported direct
conversion of BF gas to dimethyl ether [19] and using
the gas to produce methanol [20].
New legislation and emissions trading increase pres-
sures of finding new environmentally sound solutions.
When considering emissions, the entire supply-chain
ought to be considered [21]. Earlier, the availability of
cheap raw materials, such as coal, oil and natural gas in
chemical industry together with the complexity of han-
dling steel mill gases have hindered the strive towards
new solutions such as combining steel and chemical pro-
This research studies the reduction of CO2 emissions
formed when burning BF steel mills CO gases, by con-
sidering the utilisation of the CO for producing chemical
products. This type of combination of steel and chemical
industries has analogue solutions in the pulp & paper
industry, where the bio-refinery concept aims to com-
plement the basic bulk process with new chemical prod-
ucts. This study conducts economic calculations on the
impact of a steel mill moving towards more sustainable
solutions, including the influence of emissions trading.
The above described can be condensed into the following
research questions:
RQ 1 Can CO2 emissions be reduced using carbon
monoxide for producing chemicals by combining steel
manufacturing and chemical production?
RQ 2 How can the financial benefits be estimated
when producing chemicals from carbon monoxide in-
stead of using it for energy production?
2. Methodology
Figure 1 illustrates the research process. Background
information of this study included clarifying the current
state in steel industry, followed by a benchmark from
chemical industry. Based on these, analyses were con-
ducted to construct a process model combining steel and
chemical processes. The purpose of this model was to
simultaneously acknowledge technical, environmental
and economic aspects.
Figure 1. Research process.
First, the functioning of a steel mill was analysed to
understand its gas flows and potential areas for im-
provement. Special attention was paid on CO sources.
The case company, a large steel manufacturer, provided
process information, gas compositions, etc.
Secondly, a benchmark was conducted in chemical
industry to analyse how carbon monoxide is typically
produced and utilised as a raw material for chemical
production. This was realised through a literature review
and discussing with experienced chemical engineers.
Finally, economic analyses were conducted by taking
emissions costs, value of CO gas, and electricity price
into account. Databases and stock market information
were utilised to obtain price level information relating to
electricity and CO2 emissions trading, while CO gas
price was obtained from scientific literature. These eco-
nomic analyses included calculations that formed a basis
for making conclusions on the viability of combining
steel and chemical production.
3. Current state analysis
3.1. Current Gas Handling in Steel Mills
Figure 2 shows a typical production scheme of a steel
mill. There are three typical sources where combustible
gases can be attained. Coke oven gas contains mainly
methane (CH4) and hydrogen (H2), blast furnace and ba-
sic oxygen furnace gases contain mainly carbon monox-
ide (CO) [e.g. 22,17]. Energy rich coke oven gas has uses
in normal production processes in steel mills. Blast fur-
nace (BF) and basic oxygen furnace (BOF) gases are
often utilised for electricity production [23,24]. This
carbon based energy produced in a power house, how-
ever, produces unwanted CO2 emissions.
Therefore, from the sustainability perspective, other
alternative uses for BF and BOF gases are worth analys-
Figure 2. Typical production scheme of a steel mill.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. LCE
Combining Steel and Chemical Production to Reduce CO Emissions117
3.2. Carbon Monoxide Utilisation in Chemical
Typical chemical industry processes that can utilise CO
directly, or after converting to hydrogen with shift reac-
tion, are presented in Table 1. Global production vol-
umes are also presented. Methanol, ammonia, and urea
have the largest volumes. Acetic acid, formic acid,
methyl formate are, however, simpler to produce directly
from CO. Methanol and ammonia production require
hydrogen with shift reactions and produce CO2, which
however, can be utilised for urea production. Nowadays,
the above mentioned processes create the CO they re-
quire through gasification or steam reforming from coal,
oil, or natural gas.
The chemical formulas on the above table can also be
illustrated as a production process (Figure 3). The figure
combines all the discussed chemical products, even
though in practice a single chemical plant produces only
one or few of these products. In addition to the presented,
there are other potential chemical products that can be
produced from CO and synthesis gas based on CO in the
future [36-38].
3.3. Emissions Trading, Value of CO Gas,
and Electricity Price
The calculations of this study require price levels for CO2
emissions trading, CO gas, and electricity.
Emissions trading is stock market based, and forecast-
ing future is difficult, therefore this study utilises price
information from Nordpool. Currently, in August 2010,
the CO2 price is approximately 15 €/t CO2 [39], and is
forecasted to rise to 20 - 40 €/t CO2 by 2020 [40,41]. The
calculations, in the results chapter, are made with four
different emissions cost levels of 10, 20, 30 and 40 €/t
Table 1. Typical chemical processes that utilise carbon monoxide.
Process information
Product Net reaction Production
Mt/a Ref.
Formic acid CO+H2O HCOOH 0.5 [25]
CH3OOCH/C2H5OOCH n.a. [26]
Acetic acid CO+CH3OH CH3COOH 8 [27,28]
Methanol CO+2H2 CH3OH 42 [29,30]
Ammonia 3H2 + N2 2NH3 110 [31]
Urea 2NH3+CO2 NH2CONH2
+ H2O 146 [32,33]
peroxide H2 + O2 H2O2 3 [34,35]
Figure 3. Production of different chemicals from CO gas.
CO gas has value for a steel mill and if used as raw
material for other purposes, it will have a price. On the
other hand, CO gas required by chemical industry, if ob-
tained from a steel mill, cannot be more expensive com-
pared to production via other means. The price of CO gas
can be seen to consist of capital costs and productions
costs, capital costs dominating. This study utilises price
information from Blesl & Bruchof [42] and Basye &
Swaminathan [43], and estimates price as per GJ. The
capital cost of coal gasification plants given per GJ of
synthesis gas (CO, H2) output are seen to range from 13
$/GJ for bituminous coal to 17.2 $/GJ for subbituminous
coal. The total syngas production cost decreases with
increasing coal quality and ranges from 15.6 $/GJ to 19.3
$/GJ. When processed to hydrogen the costs are seen as
11.3 $/GJ by partial oxidation of fuel oil, 15.9 $/GJ by
gasification of coal, and 21.7 $/GJ by gasification of bio-
mass. Based on the above, the CO gas price ranges from
11.3 to 21.7 $/GJ. Converted into €/1000 normal m3 this
is roughly 150. A potential investor wishes to minimise
capital costs and consequently the calculations must also
be conducted with lower prices. Capital costs are mini-
mised if using CO gas from a steel mill. Hence, the cal-
culations in the results chapter, are made with three dif-
ferent CO gas price levels of 50, 100, and 150 €/1000
A steel mill that has previously generated some of its
electricity from CO gas, must replace this by purchasing
electricity from the markets. Currently, in 2010, the
market price for a major industrial user is approximately
50 €/MWh [44]. The calculations in the results chapter,
are made with three different price levels of 40, 60 and
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. LCE
Combining Steel and Chemical Production to Reduce CO Emissions
118 2
80 €/MWh.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Process Model
Based on analysing current blast furnace based steel
manufacturing processes combined with information of
production processes from CO utilising chemical indus-
try, this study has constructed a process model that ac-
knowledges the strive for sustainability (Figure 4). The
figure illustrates the constructed process model, where
the area highlighted in grey illustrates the proposed in-
clusion of chemical product lines to be integrated into the
proximity of a steel mill. In the constructed model, gases
from blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace, previously
taken to a powerhouse, are now directed to gas treatment.
In reality the gas treatment process is more complicated
and includes e.g. compressing, gas purifications, and a
possible water gas shift reaction.
Should the constructed process model be utilised, from
the perspective of a steel mill, CO gas is valuable as it
can be sold. In addition, emissions trade costs are re-
moved as CO gas is not burned into CO2. However, there
is also a negative consequence as the electricity, previ-
ously generated from CO gas, must be replaced by pur-
chased, or separately produced, electricity. In order to
maintain sustainability, the electricity ought to be pro-
duced from non-fossil sources. The technical principles
presented above, form the basis for economic calcula-
tions, discussed in the following chapters.
4.2. Calculations Required for Econ omic Analyses
Table 2 introduces the figures used in calculations, in-
cluding both generic and case specific numbers.
Figure 4. The constructed process model combining steel
and chemical production.
Generic figures are obtained from the literature and the
case specific ones have been provided by the case steel
company. These production figures and gas compositions
are typical to steel mills using BF technology.
Yield CO is the percentage of CO in the output of gas
treatment compared to the input, when CO purity is 99%.
The figures are based on VPSA (vacuum pressure swing
adsorption) system described in the report of Xie et al.
Total pure CO volume in Table 2 is calculated as fol-
 
This calculation gives the amount of CO gas 578 mil-
lion Nm3/a. The quantity of CO2 would be equal as the
number of molecules is the same after burning. The
amount of CO2 emissions avoided can be calculated:
22 2
CO emisCO gas(hours)CO density
 (2)
This calculation leads to an annual CO2 avoidance of
1.1 Mt. This is 25% of the emissions permit of the case
steel mill.
4.3. Economic Calculations
The calculations are based on opportunity cost analyses.
The assumption is that CO containing gas is sold to
chemical producers instead of feeding it to a steel mill
power house, and that chemical producers have made the
investments needed for the gas treatment and their pro-
duction processes. The chemical producers receive the
gas with the same price or a little lower as would be the
case if they would had made an investment to gas produc-
Table 2. Figures utilised in economic calculations.
Parameter Value
Yield CO 0.88*
BF gas 2 125 million Nm3/a
BF gas CO 0.24
BOF gas 212.5 million Nm3/a
BOF CO 0.69
Total pure CO 578 million Nm3/a
Emissions permit4.5 Mt CO2/a
Density of CO2 1.98 t/1000 Nm3
Power plant effi-
ciency 0.3
Heating value of CO
gas 3.5 MWh/1000 Nm3
Gas price 50 -150 €/1000 Nm3
Electricity price40 - 80 €/MWh
Emissions trade cost10 - 40 €/t CO2
*yield for a VPSA Plant for CO separation from syngas [45].
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. LCE
Combining Steel and Chemical Production to Reduce CO Emissions119
tion, for example from coal. These calculations do not
contain investments, as they are conducted by individual
chemical actors. When a chemical actor considers new
investment, it can either build new capacity independ-
ently, or locate to the proximity of a steel mill where CO
is available. As both of these options require investments,
they can be ignored in the following calculations.
By using the constructed process model and specific
figures presented earlier, one can calculate the economic
impact (EI) of the proposed transition by putting the val-
ues of CO gas (COvalue), emissions trading value of
CO2 (CO2value) and electricity cost (Ecost) in Equation 3.
Value of sold CO gas, value of avoided CO2 emissions,
and electricity cost, all are a result of two parameters,
volume and unit value. Volume of saleable CO gas is the
maximum capacity of 578 million Nm3/a, as presented in
Table 2. Volume of avoidable CO2 in tonnes can be cal-
culated by multiplying the maximum capacity with CO2
density, resulting in 1.1 million tonnes. The amount of
required additional electricity is obtained by multiplying
the total pure CO volume by power plant efficiency (0.3)
and heating value of CO gas (3.5 MWh/1000 Nm3), re-
sulting in 0.61 TWh.
Unit values, or market prices, for CO gas, CO2 emis-
sions and electricity have been simulated with three (or
four) different rates. The impact of CO gas price has
been calculated for 50, 100 and 150 €/1000 Nm3. The
emissions cost has been calculated for 10, 20, 30 and 40
€/t CO2. The impact of electricity cost has been calcu-
lated for 40, 60 and 80 €/MWh.
EICOvalueCO valueEcost  (3)
As an example, when gas price 100 €/1000 Nm3,
emissions cost is 20 €/t CO2, and electricity cost is 60
€/MWh, the formula (3) results in:
Economic impact (100, 20, 60) = (578 million Nm3/a
× 100 €/1000 Nm3) + (1.1 million tonnes × 20 €/t CO2)
(578 million Nm3/a × 0.3 × 3.5 MWh/1000 Nm3 × 60
€/MWh) = 43 million €/a. This example is highlighted in
bold in Table 4.
Tables 3-6 illustrate the economic impact by using
different values for gas price, emissions cost, and elec-
tricity cost.
The presented tables indicate that the proposed transi-
tion towards including chemical product lines into the
proximity of a steel mill would be economically feasible
in most cases. With current market price levels, the most
realistic economic benefits can be obtained with emis-
sions costs of 20 - 30 €/t CO2, gas price of 100 €/1000
Nm3, and electricity price of 40 - 60 €/MWh, resulting in
positive economic impact of some 44 - 68 million €/a.
The proposed transition would not only be economi-
cally viable, but also feasible from the environmental per
Table 3. Economic impact (M€/a) when emissions cost 10 €/t
Electricity cost (€/MWh)
Emissions cost
10 €/t CO2
CO price
(€/1000 Nm3)
40 60 80
50 16 3 -9
100 45 32 20
150 73 61 49
Table 4. Economic impact (M€/a) when emissions cost 20 €/t
Electricity cost (€/MWh)
Emissions cost
20 €/t CO2
CO price
(€/1000 Nm3)
40 60 80
50 27 14 2
100 56
43 31
150 84 72 60
Table 5. Economic impact (M€/a) when emissions cost 30 €/t
Electricity cost (€/MWh)
Emissions cost
30 €/t CO2
CO price
(€/1000 Nm3)
40 60 80
50 38 25 13
100 67 54 42
150 95 83 71
Table 6. Economic impact (M€/a) when emissions cost 40 €/t
Electricity cost (€/MWh)
Emissions cost
40 €/t CO2
CO price
(€/1000 Nm3)
40 60 80
50 49 36 24
100 78 65 53
150 106 94 82
spectives, providing that the required electricity is pro-
duced from clean sources. This way a steel mill mini-
mises the use of carbon based electricity, while the car-
bon is utilised for producing chemical products instead of
releasing it into the atmosphere, as is currently the case.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. LCE
Combining Steel and Chemical Production to Reduce CO Emissions
120 2
The results show the economic viability, however, a
steel mill needs chemical actors to join this type of ef-
forts. This study provides a fundamental principle for
calculating the economic feasibility, but relevant actors
should always conduct their calculations with exact fig-
ures relevant to their business reality.
5. Conclusions
New legislation and emissions trading increase pressures
of finding new environmentally sound solutions in order
to tackle climate change. There are pressures also in steel
industry that causes some 6% - 7% of global CO2 emis-
sions. This research studies the reduction of CO gas, a
pre-form of CO2, formed in steel mills, by considering
the utilisation of the CO for producing chemical products.
This study conducts economic calculations on the impact
of a steel mill selling CO gas to be used as raw material
for chemical products by taking emissions costs, value of
CO gas, and electricity price into account.
The results of this study show that carbon dioxide
emissions caused by steel industry can be reduced by
selling CO gas, from blast furnace and basic oxygen fur-
nace, to chemical industry. As this CO gas is currently
utilised for producing energy, the replacement electricity
has to be bought from the markets. In order to meet the
environmental requirements, this electricity must origi-
nate from sustainable sources.
The results prove the economic profitability of a tran-
sition from in-house electricity production from CO gas
to selling it to a chemical producer. The financial bene-
fits of producing chemicals from carbon monoxide pro-
duced by a steel mill, can be estimated by acknowledging
potential gains and tradeoffs. A steel mill would gain the
price obtained for sold CO gas, and the impact of emis-
sions trading costs. The tradeoffs would include a steel
mill having to replace the electricity, previously pro-
duced from CO gas, by energy purchased from the mar-
kets. This study calculated the economic impact of this
type of transition with different parameters and compared
to a true steel industry scale. With current price levels for
electricity, CO gas, and the impact of emissions trading,
a steel mill, producing a volume of 600 million Nm3/a of
total pure CO, would benefit of some 50 million € annu-
ally, if all of the CO gas would be sold for chemical
production. CO2 emissions trading roughly doubles the
economic incentives for such a transition.
This study provides a potential model for managers in
the steel industry for calculating alternative models for
operations by using their own exact case-specific figures.
This study supports combining economic facts with the
strive towards sustainability. This article gives a tangible
example on calculating CO2 emissions trading in eco-
nomic terms. The managers in the chemicals industry,
especially those considering new investments, may find
the proposed transition as a new opportunity to obtain
raw materials without extensive investments to produc-
tion capacity for CO gas.
The purpose of this article was to prove the viability of
transition towards sustainability both technically and
economically. However, this research did not cover the
case specific realities of every steel or chemical producer.
In addition, the CO quantities produced by steel industry
are so vast that a single solution does not solve the envi-
ronmental challenges of the entire sector. Also, the reali-
ties of chemical producers were not looked upon, e.g.
market growth for chemicals and steel mill site locations
in relation to markets. The future research could include,
aside addressing the above described limitations, analys-
ing the detailed differences of BOF and BF gases from
the perspective of chemical production.
6. Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Dr Pekka Belt for his
support in writing this article.
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