Methane and Steel

A few months ago, the United States, the European Union, and partners formally launched the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative to reduce global methane emissions to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. A total of over 100 countries representing 70% of the global economy and nearly half of anthropogenic methane emissions have now signed onto the pledge. Methane emissions are particularly relevant to the steel industry. Below you can read Ember’s view on the importance of dealing properly with methane emissions from metallurgical coal, the responses steel makers could have to this challenge. We also asked one of our members North Coal what they were doing to address this issue at their proposed site.

Steel’s Methane Footprint – Ember

For steel industries, there are two reasons that methane is a major climate change imperative. Firstly, combined coal mine methane emissions have an enormous impact on climate change in the short term, outstripping the EU’s total carbon emissions according to Ember analysis. Secondly, the steel industry is a major consumer of metallurgical coal, which is associated with some of the highest methane emissions of any type of coal mining.

We estimate that coal mine methane associated with steel production generates 15.9 billion cubic meters of methane per year. This is equivalent to the total CO2 emissions of Germany and the United Kingdom combined, substantially to the global warming effect of blast furnace steel. These emissions should be included in corporate scope 3 emissions, but to date, they have not.

So what can the industry do? Steel companies can take the initiative and demand that their suppliers of coke or coking coal 1) properly measure the methane emissions associated with its production and, 2) take aggressive action to mitigate unnecessary venting of coal mine methane. Our analysis shows that much of this methane can be profitably utilized to generate electricity, or otherwise destroyed via flaring or oxidation at very low cost.

This will also help future-proof supply chains, as it is increasingly likely new regulations will affect methane emissions from coal. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November (COP26) put methane on the top of the climate agenda, with over 100 countries signing the Global Methane Pledge. The United States and the European Union are both following up with ambitious legislative packages, which could push coal companies to measure, report and mitigate methane emissions.

North Coal

ResponsibleSteel Members with coal mines are very well aware of the challenges caused by methane emissions which is why they are taking actions. For example, North Coal agrees that steel companies should demand properly measured emissions from all raw materials sourced, and raw material providers should take action to mitigate their Scope 1 and 2 emissions including mine methane. It is a position North Coal supports and has taken action on. North Coal is focused on providing steelmakers with carbon-neutral metallurgical coal with minimal Scope 1 and 2 emissions and has partnered with the Bradshaw Research Institute for Mining and Minerals (BRIMM) at the University of British Columbia to quantify emissions and develop a strategy and tactical plans to net-zero. This will include a mine design that minimizes emission emitting equipment while also taking advantage of available clean hydroelectricity. Working with BRIMM we will also accurately measure fugitive seam emissions and look to develop strategies to drain fugitive methane pre-mining and explore alternative uses for the gas that lowers its emission footprint.

North Coal has also partnered with Circulor Limited to establish metallurgical coal traceability and dynamically track CO2 and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. Traceability allows North Coal to demonstrate both carbon and other sustainability performance and the higher value-in-use that net-zero coal has for blast furnace steelmakers. This data is increasingly critical to steel manufacturers’ growing imperative to ensure their supply chain has the lowest possible CO2 emissions and to demonstrate ethical sourcing.

North Coal –

North Coal and Circulor partnership:

BRIMM at University of British Columbia –

Circulor –

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