Steel has historically been the building block of a nation’s rapid industrial development. India is a resource based country and is blessed with large reserves of Iron Ore, Coal, Limestone, i.e the main raw materials required for Iron & Steel making but its sustainability has always been a major challenge. Indian steel industry has seen several up and downs in the past but despite all odds, it has made rapid strides in the last three decades from 22 MT in FY 1991-92 prior to deregulation, to 106 MT in FY 2018-19, thus becoming the second largest steelmaker in the world, after China.
The Indian steel industry operates under three broad based process routes for production viz. BF-BOF, EAF and IF. Recognizing the opportunities available in the country, mainly due to very low per capita consumption of steel and increased focus on infrastructure development, Ministry of Steel, Govt of India prepared a road map in the form of the National Steel Policy -2017 (NSP-17) to create a sustainable Iron & Steel Industry with focus on increasing the production capacity from ~ 130 MT presently to 300 MT by 2030 and to make country self-sufficient in terms of steel and alloyed steel. Thus, the next 10 years will see huge capital investments in the Iron & Steel sector in setting up of Greenfield plants as well as Brown field expansions.
Although, India’s steel production has increased significantly but our dependency on technology and supply of some of the critical raw materials has not improved much, which is leading to huge outflow of foreign exchange. It is high time, the stakeholders of steel sector i.e the design and consultancy organizations, steel producers, R&D organizations, academia and the government work together in developing a sustainable R&D platform capable of indigenous design and manufacture of equipments/ facilities as well as provide innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the steel sector in terms of enhancing process and product capability, cost-effectiveness, competitiveness, quality and environmental issues.
Drivers for Sustainability of Steel Industry
The key drivers for sustainability of the Indian steel sector can be classified under following heads:
• Product development
• Environment and energy
The competitiveness of the steel industry will largely depend on its ability to produce cost-effective steels of desired quality and volume, as per the changing market requirements. India is blessed with huge iron ore reserves of 33.3 billion tons with average iron content of 64%. Due to high Iron content, due importance could not be accorded towards adoption of the advanced beneficiation technologies like adopted in other parts of the world. Now, the grades are deteriorating and some of the deposits are facing major challenges because of high alumina content, which leads to formation of viscous slag and low productivity of the blast furnace. Similarly, Silica also is increasing continuously and impacting the competitiveness. Thus, optimum utilization of low grade iron ore in one of the most cost effective manner without compromising on environmental performance will be the major challenge for providing sustainability in the sector.
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