Sustainable Industry

Aperam resorts to innovation as a means to reduce the environmental impact of steel production

The company is a pioneer in the use of charcoal as fuel: that’s how Aço Verde Aperam came into being

Creating solutions that ensure environmental protection is increasingly important for the industrial sector both in Brazil and abroad. Strategies to this end include the deployment of cost-effective technologies to reduce the environmental impact and the consumption of natural and energy resources.

Aperam avoids the emission of approximately 700 thousands tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, i.e., the equivalent of removing the CO2 produced by 732,000 cars per year.

Given this need, Aperam South America and its subsidiary Aperam BioEnergia – the company produces and trades stainless steel, electrical steel and specialty steel – are continually seeking ways to contribute to environmental conservation, local development and the improvement of living conditions in the communities in the areas where they operate.

As such, Aperam’s initiatives are in line with the strategy of the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) towards a low-carbon economy in Brazil based on four pillars: energy transition, carbon market, circular economy, and forest conservation.

Aperam is a Latin-American leader in specialty flat steel and the only company in this segment to use solely charcoal as fuel globally – and this is how Aço Verde Aperam came into existence.  In addition, the charcoal used by Aperam South America’s steel mill in Vale do Aço is fully derived from renewable eucalyptus forests grown by Aperam BioEnergia in Vale do Jequitinhonha (MG), thus securing its self-sufficient power generation.

Aperam BioEnergia produces around 400 thousand tons of charcoal per year with an in-house staff of approximately 1,000 people in the Vale do Jequitinhonha region. It also develops new technologies for the production of charcoal through a process that reduces the emission of smoke into the atmosphere.

“The company leverages its forest assets by focusing on production at the Aperam South America steel plant, and advances sustainable development in the Vale do Jequitinhonha region through actions geared towards health, safety and the environment while promoting social initiatives,” says Edimar de Melo Cardoso, Director of Operations at Aperam BioEnergia.

Frederico Ayres Lima, CEO of Aperam South America and Aperam BioEnergia, explains that the Aço Verde Aperam brand is all about the way in which the steel is produced. “Our product is sustainable and exclusive because it comes from renewable eucalyptus forests maintained by Aperam BioEnergia, which are the source of 100% of the fuel used in our production. We are leaders in CO2 emission reduction, with the smallest carbon footprint in the stainless and electrical steel segment, and we are working to further reduce carbon emissions and strengthen our position as a carbon neutral company,” says Lima.

Innovation – Aperam developed Endur, the world’s first high-strength stainless steel, the ultra-light concrete mixer and the returnable stainless drum, which emphasize the recyclability of steel by making products more durable, which in turns translates into reduced consumption. Other innovations include the Additive Manufacturing project, which will reclaim at least a thousand pieces of equipment in different areas of the industry through 3D printing over the coming months.

At Aperam BioEnergia, a gas burner was created to capture smoke from coal production furnaces, which has significantly reduced the emission of smoke into the atmosphere. An automated system to monitor the temperature and to control oxygen inflows into the carbon furnaces has also been put in place. This provides more accurate data, leverages processes and allows for gains in terms of standardization, quality and cost of charcoal. All of these innovations have been developed in-house and are based on proprietary technology.

As far as renewable energy is concerned, Aperam has initiatives underway in other locations around the world, such as the Châtelet site, in Belgium, which installed photovoltaic panels in 2018 and is switching to solar energy in order to reduce annual emissions of 7,300 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. In Brazil, the company is conducting advanced research on this.

The company entered into a share purchase agreement for the acquisition of ELG, the world leader in the sustainable recycling of stainless steel scrap and high-performance alloys, thus strengthening the circular economy principle. The acquisition is now in the regulatory approval stage.

Aperam is also concerned with social and environmental development in the areas where it operates and so implements actions such as the Training Program for Steel Workers. The Aperam Acesita Foundation promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities, in addition to the Aperam Acesita Foundation call for projects, which has been encouraging initiatives that improve living conditions for 10 years now.

The company’s sustainable goals for 2030 are to reduce energy consumption by 11%, CO2 emissions by 30%, and dust emissions by 70%, and to increase reuse of waste and recycling by 97%, and to reduce water consumption by 40%.