The Real Cost Of Green Steel

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

There is much agitation in the climatosphere about the amount of “coking coal” used in making steel. A number of allegedly smart folks are working on ways to replace that coal with hydrogen to reduce the amount of eeevil CO2 produced in steelmaking. There’s a very recent post on the subject here on WUWT, describing a “green steel” method developed in Sweden.

So I thought I’d take a look at the numbers for steel for the European Union. If you know me, you know I like to run the numbers myself.

From “Hydrogen In Steel Production“, I find:

The steel industry accounts for 4% of all the CO2 emissions in Europe.

Now, Europe emits about 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. The four percent of that emitted by steelmaking is ~100 million tonnes per year. 8.43 billion tonnes of CO2 equals one ppmv of atmospheric CO2. So 100 million tonnes of CO2 avoided is a savings of about 0.013 ppmv of CO2 per year … except that about 45% of CO2 emissions are sequestered immediately, so they’ll only be saving about 0.007 ppmv per year … be still, my beating heart.

Then we have this estimate of the annual increase in electricity needed to convert EU steelmaking to hydrogen:

The total energy requirement for climate-neutral transformation of the blast furnace route, for example, amounts to around 120 terawatt hours (TWh) per year.

To provide that additional electricity they’ll need 14 new 1 GW nuclear power plants, plus a few more for peak production plus downtime. So call it 18 new nukes.

Plus, of course, the cost of the electricity itself. At say $0.06 per kilowatt-hour, that’s another $4.8 billion per year.

Next, will “green steel” be cost-effective and competitive in the marketplace? Don’t make me laugh.

Furthermore, imported steel that is not produced in a climate-neutral way should be taxed so that prices remain comparable.

If the steel industry has to fend for itself on this task, the prices of its end products will have to be raised enormously, which will make it internationally uncompetitive. The exodus of an entire branch of industry or at least the upstream production will be the result. 


Prices of European steel will have to be “raised enormously”? … wonderful. Steel is used in millions of products …

How about the capital cost?

We calculate that it will cost around EUR 100 billion [US$117 billion] to make the production of crude steel climate neutral.


Plus the cost of the 18 new nukes, about $8 billion per GW = another $144 billion dollars. And then there’s the cost of the additional electricity itself, which by 2050 will be $4.8 billion/year times 28 years = $134 billion.

So all up, by 2050 the changeover will cost almost $400 billion.

If they did this tomorrow, by 2050 European steelmakers would have reduced the atmospheric CO2 by ~ 0.2 ppmv. And IF (big if) the IPCC is right, that would make the world of 2050 cooler by ~ 0.002°C …

Now, temperatures drop with altitude, at the rate of about one degree C per 100 meters vertical. So if you are standing up, a temperature drop of 0.002°C is less than the underlying altitude-driven temperature difference that constantly exists between your toes and your knees …

And please, please don’t say “If the EU does this the other countries will follow”. Outside of the EU, the US, and a few other foolish sheep, most countries are nowhere near that stupid. As a way to cool the atmosphere, this will cost about US$200 trillion per °C of cooling by 2050. By comparison, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about $85 trillion per year, so it would cost well over twice the globe’s entire annual GDP to cool the planet by 1°C at that rate.

At a cost of $200,000,000,000,000 per degree of cooling, that’s gotta be far and away the world’s most expensive air conditioner … and the looney-tunes folks in the EU think it’s a brilliant plan.

And if Europe does go to “green steel”, what do they get for their $400 billion dollars besides an unmeasurably tiny cooling by 2050?

Oh, right—”enormously expensive” steel. Heck of a deal …

Mathematics. Don’t leave home without it.


AS ALWAYS: I can and am generally happy to defend my own words. But I cannot defend your interpretation of my words. So please, when you comment quote the exact words you are discussing.

PS—How big is a trillion? Almost unimaginably big. As one example, a million seconds is 11.6 days … and a trillion seconds is 31,700 years.

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Tom Halla
August 22, 2021 10:11 am

But the nukes would actually deliver reliable power. To be a proper green, figure for green prayer wheels. Or organically fed hamsters on treadmill.

John Tillman
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 22, 2021 10:27 am

Making the concrete for all those nuke plants would release a lot of CO2.

Tom Halla
Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 11:02 am

As much as the equivalent power production (production, not nameplate ratings) from windmills foundations?

Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 11:32 am

There’s a lot of steel in reinforced concrete.

Bob Cherba
Reply to  Rusty
August 22, 2021 11:41 am

And a lot of concrete in the foundation pads for the greens’ windmills.

Hari Seldon
Reply to  Rusty
August 22, 2021 12:32 pm

Here are two pictures about the base of a windmill from Germany to get a feeling about the necessary quantity of concrete:

Fundament Windkraftanlage.jpeg
Hari Seldon
Reply to  Rusty
August 22, 2021 12:34 pm

And here is another picture to get a feeling about the necessary amount of steel for the base of a windmill:

Stedesdorf-WKA Gerüst.jpeg
Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 2:29 pm

I’m waiting for them to tell us how they are going to produce carbon neutral cement. That proposal will be hilarious!🤣

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 22, 2021 10:40 am

Sweden these days is a minnow in the steel production, green or no green. China is a big fat lady in this singing contest, Estimates are that it produces just under 60% of the world total and more than seven times the EU does, its nearest competitor. It is followed by India and Japan, with USA & Russia making 4% each of the world total.

John Tillman
Reply to  Vuk
August 22, 2021 2:09 pm

China is building 43 new coal plants.

Reply to  Vuk
August 22, 2021 2:18 pm

I thought this graphic shows more clearly rise to the world dominance of the Chinese steel empire.

Reply to  Vuk
August 22, 2021 5:21 pm

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the idea of “green steel” was a Chinese propaganda effort designed to destroy the industry elsewhere

Reply to  Greg61
August 22, 2021 7:30 pm

Too late, it already is destroyed elsewhere than China, or too small in comparison (e.g. the Indian production in green in the graph above, is rising nicely, but you can hardly tell the way the Chinese production has taken off. Good on them though, the Chinese are getting development of their country done while the Western world is quite literally tilting at windmills, wasting precious taxpayer resources on fool’s errands.

However I complete deplore the methods used by the Chinese communists, especially the slave labour in the western regions so helpful in making solar panels so cheap.

Gerry, England
Reply to  Greg61
August 23, 2021 4:37 am

The UK government is working hard to destroy our steel industry by giving it the most expensive industrial electricity in Europe.

Joe Wagner
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 22, 2021 3:25 pm

There was actually a Minecraft mod where you could generate power by putting a hamster on a treadmill. Made a cute squeaking sound too!
So life will imitate Minecraft soon 😉

John Tillman
Reply to  Joe Wagner
August 22, 2021 4:31 pm

You still have to feed the hamster carbohydrates, made from water and CO2.

Simon Derricutt
August 22, 2021 10:15 am

Willis – you’ve costed this using nuclear power. I suspect they intend to do this using wind turbines, so the cost will be around an order of magnitude more. Also, since those turbines need steel, that means we’d need a lot more steel. Best lay in a supply of popcorn.

alastair gray
Reply to  Simon Derricutt
August 22, 2021 11:52 am

Burning popcorn in my patent popcorn burning stove is more efficient than bioethanol and all in all emits less CO2 .But oone will buy my popcorn stove yet they will squander billions on Hydrogen , windmills and unicorn farts . Does noone really wabnt to save the planet.

August 22, 2021 10:34 am

The devil is always in the details. Hydrogen fueled steel makes less sense than “pollution free” EVs when it comes to CO2 abatement. At least EVs have some up sides for appropriate users.

Reply to  markl
August 22, 2021 11:33 am

Hydrogen fueled steel makes less NO sense . . .

Fixed that for ya.

Reply to  markl
August 22, 2021 7:41 pm

The best EV case I’ve come across is a logging company that cuts the trees in the mountains and takes them to the mill or port at a much lower level. The EV trucks would be recharging their batteries on the way down, fully loaded with timber, and on the way up they would be using the electricity but using less than the charge since the truck is much lighter.

However, one has to ask why don’t they just put in a slide! Or even an elevator or train system on rails since the load is so one way. But anyways, I thought it was a good case for the EV trucks.

Another is a person who commutes a short distance, in an area with poor bus service, high taxes on gasoline (currently $1/L US or $3.79US/US gallon here in Southern Ontario) but relatively moderate price of electricity in the off-hours, of about 6 cents US/KWh (thanks to lots of hydro, gas and CANDU nukes, and only a small amount of wind… so far)

Reply to  PCman999
August 23, 2021 2:30 am

Similar tax rate here in the UK, where VAT at 20% is added to the fuel duty of 57.95p per litre of petrol /gas or diesel = 69.54pence.
At an exchange rate of 73p per $ this gives 95 cents.
The only way to make running a car possible is to run the current diesel car on to 200,000 miles, which at 8,000 miles per year should last 25 years and see me out. (As long as I keep changing the oil.)
Getting 50 miles per gallon on normal runs, 36 mpg with the trailer loaded with firewood.
I just hope they don’t make running non-EVs illegal.

Frank from NoVA
August 22, 2021 10:37 am


Thanks for the reality check. As far as raising the price of steel “enormously”, that’s a feature, not a bug. Just another marker as the West saunters down the path from the regulatory state to full blown fascism.

J Mac
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
August 22, 2021 3:52 pm

Green steel will put you in the red, in more ways than one!

August 22, 2021 10:37 am

What a brutal take down that was!

I thought about asking if Hydrogen Molecules are really green colored……..

Bravo Willis!

Reply to  Sunsettommy
August 22, 2021 1:13 pm

Ask Greta, if she can see CO2, surely she can be trained to see hydrogen as well.

August 22, 2021 10:47 am


You forgot a significant mathematical multiplier. You left out the Green Magic that trumps tiresome real world caculations.

David Roger Wells
August 22, 2021 10:52 am

This pious bigotry remains me of sacked COP leader Claire Perry O’Neill when she said we must teach our children the skills that they need to save the planet. I asked Perry a huge number of times to list the skills that children needed to learn to save the planet but I am still waiting. I think one of them was children walking to school! The problem is that guys like MP John Redwood who question Greta’s credulous rhetoric like Matt Ridley still believes Co2 might leap out at any time and spontaneously combust the planet.

In a Telegraph article this morning Ridley is inspired by diddly squat output on the latest fusion experiment saying we have turned the corner, no need for Co2 or fossil fuels but if you read some of his articles he preaches the benefits of Co2 confirmed to be greening the planet faster than climate change.

Maybe someone related to the climate cult could tell me how any of the man made stuff they presume we need to save the planet can be made without fossil fuels. Maybe fusion will eventually work but they will still need to make enough to transition from the 84% of energy generated by fossil fuels hopefully there is enough stuff left in the environment to achieve all of these wonderful dreams.

As Willis says the numbers are important but not one of the promoters for stuff we don’t need appears to understand arithmetic and why it matters. The same goes for gas boilers.

26 million UK gas boilers represent 0.00004% of residual atmospheric Co2 whilst all electricity generation in the UK equates to 0.00004% of residual Co2. Only 4.7 million homes in the UK can be retrofitted with ground or air source heat pumps at – according to BBC Panorama – £110,000/home which represents 0.0000072% of residual atmospheric Co2. Maybe 3.2 million homes could use hydrogen which would represent 0.000004% of residual Co2. Together this absurd nonsense would cost billions but would it influence the UK or global climate not a snowballs chance in hell. This is bare faced virtual signalling at our cost with no conceivable benefit to 66 million people in the UK or the environment. We cannot measure the influence of mitigating 0.0000112% of atmospheric Co2.

robin townsend
Reply to  David Roger Wells
August 23, 2021 5:29 am

this uk gas boiler lark is absurd.

David Dibbell
August 22, 2021 10:53 am

Thanks, Willis. I especially like how you convert a temperature difference into an altitude change. 🙂 Even 1C would be like going up a few hundred feet.

John Tillman
Reply to  David Dibbell
August 22, 2021 11:49 am

Yup. One hundred feet rise would yield 0.3 degree C of cooling.

Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 12:20 pm

I was taught that the lapse rate is 1.98 degrees C per 1000 feet. As a ready reckoner for aviation, and climbing big lumps of granite, use 2 degrees per 1000 feet to get an idea of cold you will be 🙂

John Tillman
Reply to  SteveT
August 22, 2021 12:44 pm

I learned the dry air adiabatic lapse rate is 5.4 F per 1000 ft, hence 3 C, thus 0.3 C for 100 feet. But I could be wrong. And air is rarely dry.

Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 1:47 pm

Dry air lapse rate is – g / Cp. Cp is specific heat of dry air. We know the old lapse rate but now that Cp of dry air has changed due to CO2 now at 410 ppm unsure what it is.


Reply to  SteveT
August 22, 2021 1:07 pm

The FAA says 3.5F or 2C per 1000 feet up to 36,000 feet. page 3 –

John Tillman
Reply to  rbabcock
August 22, 2021 2:14 pm

OK. So 0.2 C for 100 feet.

That height is usually in the stratosphere.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 12:41 pm

We should all immediately build our homes and cities on very tall stilts…this must save the planet err somehow or other or something …

Reply to  David Dibbell
August 22, 2021 1:16 pm

Mixing english and metric measurements. Isn’t that illegal in most of the EU?

David Dibbell
Reply to  MarkW
August 22, 2021 2:34 pm

Probably so! Honestly, as I wrote my comment, I considered saying “about a hundred meters” instead of “a few hundred feet.” 🙂

John Tillman
Reply to  MarkW
August 22, 2021 3:12 pm

That’s what caused NASA to lose an expensive spacecraft to study Martian climate.

Last edited 10 months ago by John Tillman
John F Hultquist
Reply to  MarkW
August 22, 2021 5:53 pm

The USA uses both systems.
Wine = metric
area — “the back 40” = acres
To try and change the public Land Survey System (PLSS) to metric is silly.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  John F Hultquist
August 23, 2021 8:56 am

Of course you can find Coke and Pepsi in 20 ounce bottles next to the 1 liter bottles.

David Dibbell
Reply to  David Dibbell
August 22, 2021 2:46 pm

In the replies nearby, the 5.4F (or 3C) per 1000 feet is the dry adiabatic lapse rate. That’s what I was thinking of. It’s what a parcel of rising air would experience as it expands. Once water vapor starts to condense, the moist adiabatic lapse rate applies. It’s also true that the environmental lapse rate, which varies greatly with conditions, is typically less than that. The reference to FAA material giving the lapse rate in the standard atmosphere is on this basis. Whichever lapse rate is used, the same basic point is being made.

Last edited 10 months ago by David Dibbell
John Tillman
Reply to  David Dibbell
August 22, 2021 3:41 pm

Yes, Willis was a little off. It’s a minor fraction of one degree C, either way, not 1.0 C.

John Tillman
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
August 22, 2021 8:05 pm

You’re right. You said meters rather than feet.

Reply to  David Dibbell
August 22, 2021 10:23 pm

Correct – DALR 3°C / 1000 ft and SALR 2°C / 1000 ft. ‘S’ is saturated.

Rud Istvan
August 22, 2021 10:55 am

A marvelous example of ridicule being the best response to greenies.

Mike Lowe
Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 22, 2021 1:12 pm

Can Greenies read? Or would they, if they could?

Chris Hanley
Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 22, 2021 2:16 pm

Like Islam there are no jokes in the Climate Cult.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
August 23, 2021 3:20 am

Greenies don’t “do” Mathematics and Numbers.

August 22, 2021 10:56 am

Is an American trillion different? A trillion dollars seems like small change these days!

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Crackersmilord
August 22, 2021 2:33 pm

And with Biden-flation it soon will. The USA: Argentina on the road to becoming Zimbabwe.

bill Johnston
Reply to  Crackersmilord
August 22, 2021 2:36 pm

That seems to depend on your party affiliation.

Reply to  bill Johnston
August 22, 2021 7:52 pm

Definitely true, both parties in the US, and really any party in the world these days is well inclined to flush people’s hard earned money. You get to pick the party with the smallest toilet.

Hoyt Clagwell
Reply to  Crackersmilord
August 22, 2021 6:01 pm

The money is no problem. Paul Krugman is probably in the Whitehouse right now recommending that the treasury simply print a $200 trillion dollar bill. And Joe Biden is nodding along.

joe black
Reply to  Crackersmilord
August 23, 2021 6:37 am

There is a difference between U.K an U.S Hope i got the add link thing correct.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Crackersmilord
August 23, 2021 12:10 pm

A dollar is 15cm long. The distance earth to sun is 15trillion cm. A trillion dollars laid end to end would reach the sun. A trillion is a lot.

Gary Pearse
August 22, 2021 11:10 am

“cost of the 18 new nukes, about $8 billion per GW =”

As usual, you drag all the purposely hidden costs into view. Mind you, you you were kind to use costs of nuclear instead of windmills for the energy to make hydrogen! Woke blokes won’t go for nuclides, though, so 18GW of windmills and backup are the real added costs that align with those who think in groups

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 22, 2021 1:20 pm

You also have to include the 25% utilization rate for windmills, so that means that 72GW worth of faceplate power will have to be built to produce that 18GW worth of output.
The 25% is probably high. In order to build that many new wind mill fields, you are going to have to start less and less optimal locations.

John Tillman
Reply to  MarkW
August 22, 2021 3:45 pm

At less than optimal sites, constructing wind turbines consumes more energy than they produce in their lifetimes. And in the US, practically all optimal sites are already exploited. A few still have older turbines, so could be upgraded. But the only way to boost wind generation with any hope of positive cost/benefit analysis is off shore, with the attendant expense and problems that entails.

Julian Flood
August 22, 2021 11:24 am

Willis, I had a piece on Independence Daily on how I lived 500ft above our local town as a boy. The bus that took me to school went from 1900 to 2080 in the unlikely event the IPCC turns out to be right. Guess how different Churches College, Petersfield was from 3,Troopers Bottom, Froxfield.

It’s available if you search for it.


Julian Flood
Reply to  Julian Flood
August 22, 2021 11:26 am

P. S. I always call the tropospheric lapse rate 3 deg C./1000 ft. Like ICAO.


Reply to  Julian Flood
August 22, 2021 7:58 pm

3° C per 1000ft or 304.8 metres -> 1°C/m easier to remember that way.

Last edited 10 months ago by PCman999
Andrew Wilkins
Reply to  Julian Flood
August 22, 2021 4:42 pm


Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Andrew Wilkins
August 23, 2021 8:12 pm

Yeah. Can we have that again in English?

August 22, 2021 11:25 am

When I was studying metallurgy I seem to remember a bad bad thing called Hydrogen Embrittlement Cracking in steel. I think these clowns have invented the opposite of Reardon metal.

Rick C
Reply to  Pardalis
August 22, 2021 2:56 pm

As I understood it they’re not actually producing steel with the hydrogen they’re just reducing iron ore to iron. It would take melting down the iron sponge and alloying it with carbon and other metals to produce specific grades of steel.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  Pardalis
August 22, 2021 5:59 pm

Quite a bit of H2 is produced and used. Clearly the embrittlement and escape issues are solvable. Those are in controlled circumstances.
Homes and autos seem to be more chaotic. Ka-boom!

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  John F Hultquist
August 23, 2021 3:16 pm

I’m not sure what the solubility of H2 in molten steel is, but it strikes me that at molten steel temperatures, H2 is not hanging around much. Embrittlement happens at room temperatures, AFAIK.

Reply to  Pardalis
August 22, 2021 8:13 pm

Nice Atlas Shrugged reference.

August 22, 2021 11:26 am

At some point, woke people will figure out that sitting in the dark at home while wearing a mask for your own good is not what life is all about.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Doonman
August 22, 2021 2:36 pm

Don’t bet on it. I know many woke Dems voters over 60 who still support dementia Joe and think he is doing a great job. They will support this as long as their 401K is fine. When that fails it will be too late for them to change.

August 22, 2021 11:34 am

Why are Europeans so stupid?

Reply to  gbaikie
August 22, 2021 12:41 pm

In that competition no one is better than Californians

Reply to  Vuk
August 22, 2021 1:09 pm

You are correct Vuk. California has always led the way.

Reply to  rbabcock
August 22, 2021 3:08 pm

Basement dwelling urban blighters…
Whether from callyfornia, Collyrado, Pacific NW, Massahucksit, Connectikut and many other urban blighted insular locations.

Curious George(@moudryj)
Reply to  rbabcock
August 22, 2021 4:57 pm

I just got my Voter Information Guide, California Gubernatorial Recall Election. On Page 4, Governor’s Answer: WARNING: THIS UNWARRANTED RECALL EFFORT WILL COST CALIFORNIA TAXPAYERS 81 MILLION DOLLARS! On Page 9, the Department of Finance estimates the cost to be $276 million.

80 million here, 276 million there, and soon we are talking real money. There is nothing like a creative accounting. Governor Gavin Newsom is a master.

John Tillman
Reply to  Curious George
August 22, 2021 5:07 pm

Unwarranted is as unwarranted does. Obviously, millions of petition signers found the recall warranted.

Reply to  Vuk
August 22, 2021 1:13 pm

Perhaps. But there are many fine contenders from all around the world for the Stupilympics.

I do admit that the “Western Democracies” would certainly dominate the competition.

Reply to  Vuk
August 22, 2021 2:33 pm

Hangs head in shame.
I am a Californian.
But we are having a recall election {he says hopefully].

John Tillman
Reply to  gbaikie
August 22, 2021 3:49 pm

Whatever happens you still have a Woke legislature.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  gbaikie
August 22, 2021 6:04 pm

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word. gbaikie: Yes, sir. … Move

apology to “The Graduate

John Tillman
Reply to  Vuk
August 22, 2021 3:48 pm

Well, they do have the excuse of earthquakes for shunning nukes. Same here in Chile, where there is but one reactor, visible from Ruta 68 between Santiasco and Valpo.

View your fate on Route 68?

Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 5:51 pm

It’s not hard to build nuke’s to handle even large earthquakes.

John Law
Reply to  gbaikie
August 22, 2021 1:27 pm

We have lots of stupid politicians to help us!

Tom Gelsthorpe
Reply to  gbaikie
August 22, 2021 1:31 pm

They’ve abandoned religion, and are flailing about for a reason to feel guilty. Apparently acting stupid doesn’t qualify.

Patrick Hrushowy
Reply to  gbaikie
August 22, 2021 1:33 pm

Canadians and Americans as well.

August 22, 2021 11:54 am

Thank you, sir. Much appreciated.

August 22, 2021 12:02 pm

Furthermore, imported steel that is not produced in a climate-neutral way should be taxed so that prices remain comparable.

But that is known as a tariff. There are two primary reasons for modern economists’ opposition to tariffs.

First, by raising prices of imports, tariffs encourage high-cost domestic production of import substitutes. This production would be uneconomic in the tariffs’ absence. Cost measures what people sacrifice to obtain a particular objective, so substituting higher cost domestic production for lower cost imports means more of other things are given up to get those items. Giving up more means having less, which is another way of saying overall living standards are lower!

The second reason also follows the fact that tariffs raise prices of imports. The higher prices discourage domestic consumption of imports, consumption that otherwise would yield benefits greater than costs. Foregoing such consumption also reduces the size of the tariff-imposing country’s economic pie, which is yet another way of saying overall living standards are lower.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Doonman
August 22, 2021 1:10 pm

In other words, if you have to pay more for essentials, then you have less money to spend on things that add variety to life and make life more enjoyable.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 22, 2021 3:20 pm

For poorer or limited income folks it quickly becomes a choise of what essential is most important?

e.g. Does one pay the rent but then freeze when one cannot afford fuel? O should one buy fuel to heat a place where you cannont stay anymore?

John Tillman
Reply to  ATheoK
August 22, 2021 3:50 pm

Not an issue under CDC-dictated eviction moratorium.

Gunga Din
August 22, 2021 12:10 pm

Sort of related, eliminate coal or burning anything that produces CO2, where will “activated carbon” come from? (OK. “Burning” it in the absence of O2. But that takes a LOT of heat and energy.)
Activated Carbon is used in water treatment, aquarium filters, home water filters, air filters … all kinds of things to purify water and air.

Reply to  Gunga Din
August 22, 2021 3:35 pm

“But that takes a LOT of heat and energy.”?

Not really.

So called activated charcoal is one of the catches regarding returning to a life similar to precolonial/medieval America/Europe.

People who use various primitive methods to “start” fires usually rely upon scraps of cloth or twine that has been carbonized in an oxygen free environment. People living a prehistoric lifestyle treasure those fragments as much as gold.

These small fragments of carbonized fibers are the actual catch basins for transient burning sparks or small bits of burning tinder. They catch and keep a spark glowing while one puts the spark into a prepared twig bed where light air movement can brighten the spark and ignite the twigs. These carbonized pieces of fiber are carried in ‘coal boxes’.

It isn’t as easy to catch bouncing bit of glowing metal of rock as people like to pretend.

N.B., friction started burning coals tend to larger and hotter than flint struck sparks. Coals that can ignite grasses and small twigs if one is careful with that light bit of wind.

N.B. 2, in Colonial America, before coal was discovered. Man built tightly stacked piles of wood, covered them in clay then built small controlled fires covert the wood mass into charcoal for steelmaking.

Last edited 10 months ago by ATheoK
John Tillman
Reply to  ATheoK
August 22, 2021 3:51 pm

Charcoal is still made that way in Chile, an officialy “developed” country, ie member of EOCD.

John Tillman
Reply to  ATheoK
August 22, 2021 4:52 pm

Coal was known from antiquity, but charcoal was often easier to make than mining for fossil lignite.

Gunga Din
Reply to  ATheoK
August 23, 2021 4:21 pm

Hi, AtheoK,
I was referring to activated carbon used to purify air and water, not scraps to start fires.
We use tons of GAC in our biologically water active filters after O3 treatment to allow microbes to breakdown further the organic precursors that might form disinfection biproducts in the presence of Cl2. We also keep a few tons of PAC on hand to feed at the head of the plant in case we need to deal with taste and odor issues the O3 won’t oxidize or toxins released from certain strains of blue-green algae.
Different sources (coal, coconut husk, wood) produce products best suited for what is to be removed or, in our case, allows microbes to grow on it.
To produce it (and sometimes reclaim it as Cincinnati does by “re-burning” it to drive off the Ohio River organics it’s GAC filter cap has adsorbed) on an industrial scale does require a LOT of heat and energy.

Gunga Din
August 22, 2021 12:19 pm

“C”, Carbon and it’s isotopes remain the element “C”.
Short of fusion or fission, the amount of “C” will remain the same.
Why not use it to make life better?

M Courtney
August 22, 2021 12:25 pm

So why is this silly idea getting any publicity? I think I know.

In the UK there was a move to boost the economy of an isolated and thus poor part of the country called Cumbria by opening a new deep coal mine. The area has very good quality coal that could be used for coking.

How to get planning permission for a new coal mine with all the green regulations?

The company proposed the coking coal was a green investment. You can’t make wind turbines without steel. Dig the mine or abandon renewables.

This caused outrage amongst the green brigade (e.g. The Guardian). And especial umbrage was taken because the argument was right.

Solution? Find an alternative to coking coal.

Last edited 10 months ago by M Courtney
Tom Gelsthorpe
Reply to  M Courtney
August 22, 2021 12:37 pm

Greens have already found an “alternative” to thinking or measuring anything accurately.

Repeat inane memes! Over and over!

John Tillman
Reply to  M Courtney
August 22, 2021 12:51 pm

That would have been great for Cumbria, the UK and Europe. Most metallurgical coal (bituminous and anthracite grade) today comes from Australia, Canada and the US. China relied on Oz, as you know, but now is miffed.

Tom Gelsthorpe
August 22, 2021 12:34 pm

Woke green sanctimony long ago degenerated into a grotesque parody of the joke, “How many dopes does it take to change a light bulb?”

Billions, apparently, but it still throws no light.

The suicidal economics, however, is NOT a joke.

August 22, 2021 12:48 pm

Money is no object as long as it’s used to destroy Western Civilization. What a despicable concept.

Mike McMillan
August 22, 2021 12:51 pm

Now, temperatures drop with altitude, at the rate of about one degree C per 100 meters vertical. So if you are standing up, a temperature drop of 0.002°C is less than the underlying altitude-driven temperature difference that constantly exists between your toes and your knees …

Ah, yes, the old reliable adiabatic lapse rate. 😉

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mike McMillan
August 22, 2021 1:13 pm

Except it isn’t reliable unless one knows whether to use the dry or wet rate — or something in between.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 22, 2021 2:49 pm

The point is that Willis was formerly in agreement with Prof Robert Brown (rgbatduke) about the adiabatic lapse rate.

John Tillman
Reply to  Mike McMillan
August 22, 2021 3:53 pm

But he’s off by a factor of three to five, or more. Depends upon how wet the air is.

Curious George(@moudryj)
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
August 22, 2021 5:17 pm

You are only 98% correct, the rate is 0.98 K / 100 m.

Simon Derricutt
Reply to  Mike McMillan
August 23, 2021 4:31 am

Thanks Mike – that was an interesting post. I think rgb however missed the point that between collisions gravity acts on the gas molecules, so they don’t travel in straight lines but instead a parabola (if I’m really nitpicking it’s a section of an ellipse). Thus what you would get if bulk movements were inhibited would be that the total energy (KE plus gravitational PE) would be constant up the column and the measured temperature (which only looks at the KE) would drop as we rise.

Since in normal experiments, that’s not done, this gravitational effect is not seen, and rgb is correct. However, this also means that the total energy of KE+PE rises up the tube of air, since the temperature is constant.

See (and related posts for the rest of the information) for Graeff’s experiments on this gravitational lapse rate. He used hollow glass spheres to impede convection, so there’s a systematic error as opposed to using air – the density is higher. However, he did manage to get temperature measurements to 0.01°C which is extremely hard to do. Qualitatively he proved the idea, I think, but the density problem means his gravitational lapse rate figures won’t be accurate.

Simon Derricutt
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
August 23, 2021 11:51 am

Willis – there’s nothing odd about perpetual motion, and it happens a lot. Electrons keep going around nuclei. The problem comes when you try to power something with perpetual motion. In this case, you’d simply have heat continually passing from the bottom to the top via the Silver wire. No violation of Conservation of Energy (CoE). Its simply setting up conflicting equilibria. One equilibrium would be trying to attain a gravitational temperature difference between the top and bottom of the gas, and the other is trying to equalise the temperature either end of the Silver wire. However, in order to get this you’d need to stop convection.

A standard solar cell works because of conflicting equilibria. Here, one equilibrium is trying to zero out the internal electric field as the incoming photons produce electrons and holes that go in opposite directions in the electric field in the depletion zone. The other equilibrium is in the external load which has a voltage across it, so current flows to try to zero out that electric field. Once you feed the photons into the system, you can’t satisfy both equilibria for a solar cell with a load across it. The net result is turning the energy of the incoming photons into electrical power. Sure, you can look at this as a conversion process, but the reason it works is that both equilibria cannot be simultaneously satisfied so movement must happen.

If you decided to try to put a pair of thermocouples in the gas column to get energy out, then the gas would gradually cool down and deliver power out, which would violate 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2LoT). CoE would be satisfied. Your first response here is likely to be that that’s not possible. However, if you look up MerCaT sensors, which have the same structure as solar cells but have a band-gap of only around 100mV, and are used to sense that range of IR, they produce around 100mV from their own internal heat when used at room temperature, so are normally used cooled down to liquid Nitrogen temperatures. The amount of power they produce is extremely small, but it does need to be allowed for in the electronics used. There are enough “hot tail” photons around at room temperature to exceed that 100meV or so, so if you kept them with a resistance across them they would also cool themselves very slightly and deliver power to the external load.

The point is that 2LoT is violated slightly by commercially-available devices. So far, there aren’t any violations that would actually be useful, with the best ones just about lighting a LED faintly. Possibly using a semiconductor with a band-gap of around 26meV and a PN junction to get the electric field would work, but given the number of thermally-induced carriers it would be hard to get a depletion zone with a field across it.

For Graeff, he intended to produce such a heat engine. The thing is that heat conduction in air (when convection is blocked as he did it) is very slow. Thus the power out would only be minute even if he built very large systems. He did however measure that gravitational temperature difference using great care to achieve the accuracy and precision needed. There’s that problem of the hollow glass spheres changing the measured value from the result for air, but then without some sort of barrier he couldn’t block convection of the air. Still, the point here is that the gravitational temperature gradient in air has been measured, even though there are errors in the measurement.

Consider an air molecule between collisions. If it’s going upwards at the moment, some of its kinetic energy will be converted to gravitational potential energy, and of course vice-versa if it’s going down. Thus if going upwards, whatever kinetic energy it started with will be reduced, and if going downwards then its kinetic energy will be increased. It is that changed KE that is passed on in a collision. We measure the average kinetic energy as temperature. Any potential energy isn’t measured by the thermometer. Thus theoretically that gravitational temperature gradient must exist if convection is stopped. However, if you allow normal convection, the gas will mix enough that you won’t see it, and instead the temperature in the column will be uniform.

I think RGB’s point was that the standard lapse rates are produced because of the pressure changes as convection happens. It needs a source of heat to drive it, which is normally at ground level and heated by the Sun. It won’t be totally adiabatic because of the radiation exchange, and the proportion of energy exchanged by radiation as opposed to conduction will vary with height above ground. Still, that convection carries the air from ground level to where it can radiate to space, and then it cools and drops with a bit less energy than it started with. It gets warmer on the way down by almost-adiabatic compression, but not quite as warm as it started. The effects of water phase-changes also need to be allowed for. Since the air definitely doesn’t have convection stopped, the gravitational temperature differences simply don’t happen – packets of air go upwards or downwards depending on their buoyancy. Thus RGB was right on that, and I found that useful. The nitpicking about what happens if you can stop convection is interesting, but hard to achieve in practice. On the other hand, you also ought to see that gravitational temperature gradient in an electrically-insulating solid. You won’t see it in a metal because the electrical field is far stronger than gravity and heat transfer in metals largely depends on electrons. Still, unlike Graeff I’m not going to spend 10 years measuring the temperature at the top and bottom of such a column to hundredths of a degree….

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Simon Derricutt
August 23, 2021 5:29 pm

Electron don’t orbit the nucleus – the solar system model of the atom has been disproven for almost a century.

Simon Derricutt
Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
August 24, 2021 3:33 am

Loren – I was going to say the Earth orbits the Sun, instead, but there are some losses there so in a few billion years there will be changes. For the electrons around the nucleus, that is more of a resonance in space, as you say, but as far as we know that resonance will continue without losses for ever, and thus a better demonstration of “perpetual” motion. I could also have pointed to the perpetual currents in a superconducting ring of material that transitions to the superconducting state in the presence of a magnetic field.

My point there was that perpetual movement, as such, is both allowed and not surprising. Thus you can’t use the appearance of perpetual motion as an argument for disallowing some effect.

RGB’s article solved a paradox for me, in that that gravitational temperature difference has to exist in a gas column where convection is inhibited, but that we don’t normally measure it to happen, and instead we get the standard lapse rate determined by adiabatic volume changes.

August 22, 2021 12:55 pm

$100b here, there and everywhere
Trillions for this, that and the other
Millions as pocket change

Are there enough (climate neutral) printing presses for all this?

August 22, 2021 12:59 pm

Thanks Willis for your analytical approach to these matters. It seems many in the “green world” lack the technical treatment of such issues. Often it seems more political science than actual science. Therefore, one must wonder if those involved have done their due diligence, post production, to assure that the material produced in this experimental process has been able to avoid hydrogen embrittlement, a known failure mode for steel.

August 22, 2021 1:06 pm

Willis, How much to upgrade the electrical grid between all those new nuclear power plants and the “green” steel mills?

August 22, 2021 1:13 pm

How big is a trillion? Well the War in Afghanistan is estimated to have cost 2.26 T$ between 2001-2021, so let’s say 1 T$ is roughly equivalent to 0.5 Afghanistans. And it ain’t over yet.

Reply to  yirgach
August 22, 2021 2:23 pm

0.5 Afghanis with American, British, French et al multipliers. Yes, the worst is in progress.

John Tillman
Reply to  yirgach
August 22, 2021 2:49 pm

Not including value of lives lost, nor the expenses of US allies, including Afghanistan’s.

Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 3:42 pm

The linked article included all those expenses..

Reply to  John Tillman
August 22, 2021 5:58 pm

What is the value of the lives lost on 9/11 and the economic damage done on that day? How many more 9/11’s would have happened had we done nothing.
How many more will happen now that we have returned the terrorists base of operations to them?

Reply to  MarkW
August 23, 2021 4:53 am

But we did nothing all the time. There are still Muslims alive in this world. Thousands of atomic bombs available, and none dropped on Mecca nor Kabul nor Teheran nor Damascus, each of them more toxic to our culture than Japan and Germany combined were in 1945. We have become toothless and senile, like the POTUS.

August 22, 2021 1:15 pm

On the button as usual, Willis.

One caveat, though. You assume that someone is going to buy steel, green or otherwise, at that price.
Not going to happen while the Chinese are in the steel making business. We even built the new Forth crossing with Chinese steel.

Reply to  Oldseadog
August 22, 2021 3:34 pm

Chinese steel is used everywhere around the world; even Volvo cars, now owned by Geely in China.

Swedish steel productions is a niche business in long-term decline. Using hydrogen as the reducing agent will hasten the Swedish industrial decline.

Reply to  Oldseadog
August 22, 2021 4:38 pm

you too can have slaves. all that is needed is to excise that ruddy bit of conscience

Coeur de Lion
August 22, 2021 1:24 pm

Always remember that the level of CO2 doesn’t matter a toss.

Reply to  Coeur de Lion
August 22, 2021 2:25 pm

Sociopolitical apologies are known to follow strict standards of persuasion, evasion, creation, inflation, and deflation in their turn.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
August 22, 2021 1:57 pm

Willis: it’s even worse than you state. From the “Hydrogen in Steel Production” link you provided there are some important caveats:

To summarize: 

  • At best, injecting green hydrogen into the BF–BOF route can reduce emissions by 21%. 
  • Hydrogen from electrolysis with grid electricity can increase emissions of the BF-BOF route by 36.9% depending on the grid emission intensity.  
  • Companies state they will use green hydrogen once available, but use grey hydrogen in the meantime. 
  • Using grey hydrogen from natural gas reformation can reduce emissions by 2.1%. Blue hydrogen can result in emission reductions similar to green hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen BF steel should not be confused with Hydrogen Direct reduction of iron ore, which can indeed go down to very low emissions and produce carbon neutral steel. This technology will be covered in part 2 of this article.

So even green hydrogen (from electrolysis) does not eliminate CO2 emissions, but reduces it by 21%. Using “grey” hydrogen only cuts emissions by 2.1%. I believe this is using existing Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) blast furnaces. Better results can be achieved by using hydrogen in the Direct Reduction of Iron (DRI) process, which I assume requires all new steelmaking plants at some unstated additional cost.

As Vuk notes, Sweden accounts for a miniscule 4.4 million metric tons in 2020 and the entire EU just 139.2, or about 13% of world 2020 production. So take the cost you calculate for the EU and multiply by roughly 7.7 for the cost to reduce global steelmaking CO2 emissions by 21%.

Never before in human history have so many intelligent and educated people been so willfully stupid.

August 22, 2021 2:19 pm

The greenback reservoirs of Green technology and sociopolitical myths spread under the obfuscating cover of handmade tales. That said, never attribute to incompetence, that can be adequately explained through self-interest.

David Pentland
August 22, 2021 2:34 pm

“Outside of the EU, the US, and a few other foolish sheep, most countries are nowhere near that stupid”
I guess Canada is in the “few foolish sheep” category.

“Ottawa to invest $400-million in ArcelorMittal Dofasco to phase out coal-fired steel making…”

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  David Pentland
August 22, 2021 7:58 pm

That is a given of course.
Dementia Joe has nothing on Prime Idiot Trudeau

August 22, 2021 2:40 pm

Funny how green schemes are always an economic and national disaster for the citizen taxpayer and once productive industries. And there’s always a chorus-line of grandstanding political party hacks, idiots and other closet communists rousing it all forth, as the next new leap in European cleverness and initiative.

The whole world should just sanction the EU now. Kick them out of every export market, with a wave of our own protectionist subsidies and grand tax imposts on goods imported from the EU. If they want to go broke let’s help them get there sooner and really save the world before the final decade is over.

They’ll all be fighting each other again before 2035. At least the UK sorta got out of it.

John Tillman
Reply to  WXcycles
August 22, 2021 4:28 pm

They’ve already gone back to enforcing national borders.

August 22, 2021 3:43 pm

about $8 billion per GW”

The real issue here is how we got to the point where 1 W costs 8 $. It’s demented!

Curious George(@moudryj)
Reply to  niceguy
August 22, 2021 5:25 pm

How so?

John Tillman
August 22, 2021 3:55 pm

Your moronic post is still up. Peak oil hasn’t happened yet.

Global steel production rose in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It fell ever so slightly in 2020.

August 22, 2021 4:19 pm

I’ve been trying to find out what exactly is green steel. The best I’ve found is that green steel is some kind of low carbon steel. No carbon steel is called iron. I don’t really understand green steel, though.

Low carbon steel has some uses but it is too weak for most applications where strength is required.

The says it better than I can:

John Tillman
Reply to  OK S.
August 22, 2021 4:30 pm

Uncoked steel still has to alloy with carbon somehow, so “Green Steel” still needs the evil element (essential to life) by some means. That means either fossil sources or from the air. The real deal would be to make steel production a sink of atmospheric C.

Curious George(@moudryj)
August 22, 2021 5:02 pm

There is a peak temperature around 3 pm almost every day.

Pat Frank
August 22, 2021 5:11 pm

John McCarthy, late of Stanford, headed his “Sustainablility of Human Progress” website with, “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.”

Thank-you Willis, for showing yet once again the disease of mind that infests AGWistas.

Last edited 10 months ago by Pat Frank
Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Pat Frank
August 22, 2021 7:56 pm

Another quote saved

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
August 22, 2021 5:55 pm

Obviously we reached peak steel in 1990, 2001, 2009 and then again in 2018. /sarc

Last edited 10 months ago by MarkW
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
August 22, 2021 6:40 pm

You wrote this howler:

The entire article is irrelevant because steel production has been falling for years due to peak oil and peak steel.

Apparently you made a fool of yourself…. AGAIN!

Willis showed it has been growing for over the last 20 years.


August 22, 2021 5:32 pm

Thorium MSRs could be used during the night time hours to provide cheap electricity for steel making. Steel from sunken WW2 ships is being stripped because? The steel made before the atmospheric ban on nuclear weapons testing means WW2 steel is not radioactive and needed in some applications of medical and scientific equipment. Apparently all steel made after the bomb tests is slightly radioactive. The CCP is a criminal organization and anyone buying anything from China is helping the CCP. Steel is necessary for national defense and therefore the industry must exist even if expensive. “Free trade” is a good idea within your own borders but does not exist worldwide and should not exist due to the CCP. The ideal situation would be for every country to be self sufficient in food and energy …and steel.

Walter Sobchak
August 22, 2021 5:40 pm

Closer to home, mine anyway, Cleveland Cliffs, an integrated mining and steel making company, opened the Toledo Direct Reduction plant in 2020, which uses natural gas to make hot-briquetted iron from iron ore pellets. The briquetts are about 6.4 cu. in., weigh about 10 lbs and are about 7/8 pure metallic Fe.

The briquets are feed into electric arc furnaces together with scrap to make steel products. Rods, bars, and rolled steel.The electric arc furnaces account for nearly 2/3 of steel production in the United States.

The difference between the Toledo plant and the Swedish plants is that Toledo uses natural gas which is steam reformed into syngas (CH4 + H2O = CO + 6H) which then reduces Iron Oxide FeO3 into Fe + CO2 + H2O. Energetically this is a downhill lie and is much cheaper than producing H2 from H2O by electrolysis.

AFAIK, the Toledo plant is not subsidized and is intended to make money.

Last edited 10 months ago by Walter Sobchak
Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
August 22, 2021 6:24 pm

That should be 10 oz. not 10 lbs.

August 22, 2021 6:04 pm

Brilliant! As always. Thank you Willis.

Rich Lentz(@usurbrain)
August 22, 2021 6:43 pm

I was taught that a certain amount of Carbon was needed to make steel and to make it strong and this was added from the cooking coal. So, how do they make it Steel without it?

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Rich Lentz
August 22, 2021 7:53 pm

So after they build the nukes and use the power to make hydrogen and capture the resultant CO2 they will then inject this into the process with much escaping to atmosphere…..

On second thoughts never mind

August 22, 2021 6:51 pm

Hydrogen is also one of the most deleterious elements it’s possible to have in a steel. I’d be highly surprised if typical industrial air melt processing could guarantee acceptable levels.

August 22, 2021 7:20 pm

Willis- My first impression is that using hydrogen to make iron and steel was a no brainer economically. And, congratulations for not mentioning hydrogen embrittlement!

Philip Mulholland
August 22, 2021 7:57 pm

So if you are standing up, a temperature drop of 0.002°C is less than the underlying altitude-driven temperature difference that constantly exists between your toes and your knees …

It doesn’t even reach as far as their brains does it?

Last edited 10 months ago by Philip Mulholland
August 22, 2021 8:36 pm

[IF] Europe goes through with this. They’ve just taken themselves out of the steel business and made steel imports so expensive that they won’t get any and therefore will be importing their finished steel goods. Go woke. Go broke.

August 23, 2021 12:12 am

Apparently hydrogen embrittlement has just magically disappeared……..

August 23, 2021 12:23 am

The counter argument is: Fossil energy is a finite resource. Practicing how to live without it will pay off in the future. It is a matter of time perspectives.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Rudi
August 23, 2021 5:17 pm

The time perspective to worry about is the arrival of the next glacial period, not the exhaustion of fossil fuels.

Steve Richards
August 23, 2021 2:42 am

I would have thought that the removal of hydrogen from freshly made steel would be easy-ish if they used zone refining similar to that used to make ingots of silicon.

I can see it now, lines of refining machines, stretching into the distance, hot spots repeatedly sweeping over 10kg ingots of steel.

It only takes money to achieve these green ambitions you know!

Perhaps multiplying the cost of steel by, what a 1000 or 10,000 times? A small price to pay to enable the green dream!

Do I need to add a /sarc?

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Richards
August 23, 2021 2:57 am

The Austrian Steel Company Voestalpine ( is also a European frontrunner to move to hydrogen steel. By end of 2019 they started the worlds biggest green hydrogen steel plant:

What worlds biggest means: It is designed to produce 1%(!) of actual Voestalpine steel output and Voestalpine is no commodity steel producer, so focused on quality and not quantity. In their Environmental Statement ( they comment (p.4), that a conversion only to the “hybrid route” would need additional 3TWh of renewable energy and that the economic feasibility “has not yet been proven” (p.5)

To put it into context. The total electric energy consumption of Austria in 2019 was 63.6 TWh. So just the hybrid route would require an electric energy production increase of 5% for just the biggest energy intensive company. The construction cost for this 1% pilot plant was 18 Mio €.

So, Willis figures are for sure not exaggerated.

August 23, 2021 6:18 am

The small Swedish company that developed this process produces specialty steels for which they get higher prices. They must think there are other companies such as candle stick makers that wish to virtue signal by saying “We use green steel,” They are not likely to have any competitors in the steal industry.

Jim Whelan
August 23, 2021 9:52 am

Isn’t coke pretty much purified carbon? Doesn’t that make steel a carbon sequestering product?

August 23, 2021 10:59 am

Well, they have to have a “comprehensive framework” for very high tariff walls in the EU. It helps to have the US dragged along too. This helps authorized cheaters work with consultants in Panama and Monaco to do deals on the fringes.

August 23, 2021 9:37 pm

I thought I would compare your ‘18 New Nukes’ for carbon neutral or “Green Steel” with the views expressed by Dr.Alan Finkel,the recently retired Chief Scientist of Australia, in his April Quarterly Essay “Getting to Zero”in which he extolls the virtue of green hydrogen and green steel making.
The comparison is instructive.
Total greenhouse emissions in Australia in 2020 were 513 million tonnes down nearly 17% from 2005 and 3% from 2019 attributable to CoVid 19 restrictions.
The metals industry was a significant subsector with 11 million tonnes of emissions.
Dr.Finkel continues-
“The majority of this,7 million tonnes, comes from steel- making.
As described,today’s steel making consumes large amounts of coal.
Some reduction in the near term, perhaps this decade,will come from using natural gas instead of coal for the chemical reduction step, but in the long run it will be possible to eliminate the emissions from steel-making entirely by using renewable electricity for heat and clean hydrogen for the chemical reduction process.
None of these process changes will be easy and will require ongoing research, development and demonstration investments.”
Earlier on, in “ Hydrogen from Electrolysis” –
“The two ingredients to make hydrogen by electrolysis are electricity and water. To do it at large scale- say at the scale of our liquified natural gas industry – takes lots of electricity and a good deal of water.
For those of a technical bent, it takes 39.4 kilowatt- hours of electrical energy and 9 litres of water to produce one kilogram of hydrogen.
When burnt, except in special circumstances,all the water is returned to the atmosphere, but only 33.3 kilowatt- hours of energy is available to do useful things like power a truck.
The 6.1 kilowatt-hours difference is lost as waste heat that cannot be easily recovered.
The numbers involved in building future hydrogen industries are quite stunning. Let’s take a moment to think about hydrogen for future export.
If we were to export as much hydrogen by energy value as Australia’s 79 million tonnes of liquified natural gas (LNG) exports in the year to June 2020, because of the superior mass energy density of hydrogen we would have to export 33 million tonnes.
On my calculation, the electricity required to produce 33 million tonnes of hydrogen for export, including the electricity for handling and liquefying would be approximately 2200 terawatt-hours.
This is about eight times Australia’s total electricity generation in 2019.
To produce the electrical energy from solar, we would need to install nearly one thousand gigawatts of capacity which is 75 times more than Australia’s installed solar capacity in 2019.
It is more than the installed solar capacity worldwide.
The solar fields would cover about 20,000 square kilometres of land.
That’s about four fifths of the size of our biggest cattle farm,Anna Creek Station, in South Australia, but only 0.25 per cent of Australia’s land mass.
So, yes it’s a big requirement, but phased in over thirty years, it’s quite conceivable. Because of the superior capacity factor of wind, if the capacity came from a mix of wind and solar,the installed capacity would be smaller, perhaps 700 gigawatts or thereabouts.
Australia is richly endowed with sun, wind and land – sufficiently so that if construction costs are low and enough land is made available, we can produce all the solar and wind electricity we would need to support a large scale hydrogen export industry.”
Dr. Finkel then looks at water capacity and suggests that although we are a dry continent we can find enough water including sea water etc.
On export industries he says-
“Take steel.Renewable electricity can replace metallurgical coal for melting the iron ore…
Given that we have all three ingredients for making zero emissions steel- iron ore, renewable electricity, clean hydrogen-the economic case for adding value to our iron ore rather than shipping it is attractive….”

I am mindful of Tom Baxter’s recent post here to the effect that splitting water molecules to produce green hydrogen causes a lot of energy to be lost in the process so that on average the cost of hydrogen per kilowatt hour will be greater than the electricity it is derived from.
Unless I am missing something,Dr.Finkel’s Essay, does not discredit what is said in this post,that competitive green steel is laughable.

Reply to  Herbert
August 24, 2021 4:38 am

1) Finkel does not know what he does NOT know. As a result, he puts society at risk. Steel making, primary aluminum smelting and other industrial processes NEED CONTINUOUS electricity supply. Intermittent electricity, at a minimum, raises emissions. Prolonged interruption of electricity supply (such as the routine daily drops in wind turbine & solar panel output) can cause molten metal to solidify. Repairing “freeze up” damage is co$$$$tly and time consuming. Freeze ups also create much environmentally damaging solid waste.

2) Green steel is MORE CO$$$TLY than Willis estimates. Coke batteries yield co-products, including electricity;-) So, investments needed to add capacity to make such products must be added to Willis’ $400+ billion. The replacement facilities’ operating costs must be added, too.

3) Willis, your big point is valid, relevant and superbly made. Many thanks.

James Charles
August 24, 2021 12:09 am

‘Fighting’ yesterday’s ‘battles’?
Usually the ‘economists’ who use ‘macroeconomic models’ ‘believe’ that the solution to the current macroeconomic problem is the implementation of the ‘correct’ type of demand side policies. That is, how to increase income/output {‘growth’}.
Increase M0, M2 or M3, cut r, or make it negative. Increase G and finance it by ‘borrowing’ from the central bank or by borrowing from the private sector. Or ensure that private credit is extended only for GDP transactions.
All that is lacking is a ‘sufficient’ increase in effective demand!
The neoclassical/Austrian economists, who believe that income/output is ‘supply determined’, will argue that all that is required to generate a large increase the growth of the underlying productive potential of an economy is for taxes to be cut and more ‘competition’, etc be introduced!

Aside from the negative externalities of ‘growth’, what they ignore is the ‘energy supply side’?

‘We’ have 16 years?

“Global peak oil production may have already happened in October of 2018 (Will covid-19 delay peak oil? Table 1). It is likely the decline rate will be 6%, increasing exponentially by +0.015% a year (see post “Giant oil field decline rates and peak oil”). So, after 16 years remaining oil production will be just 10% of what it was at the peak. “

‘We’ have ten years?
“ . . . our best estimate is that the net energy
33:33 per barrel available for the global
33:36 economy was about eight percent
33:38 and that in over the next few years it
33:42 will go down to zero percent
33:44 uh best estimate at the moment is that
33:46 actually the
33:47 per average barrel of sweet crude
33:51 uh we had the zero percent around 2022
33:56 but there are ways and means of
33:58 extending that so to be on the safe side
34:00 here on our diagram
34:02 we say that zero percent is definitely
34:05 around 2030 . . .
34:43 need net energy from oil and [if] it goes
34:46 down to zero
34:48 uh well we have collapsed not just
34:50 collapse of the oil industry
34:52 we have collapsed globally of the global
34:54 industrial civilization this is what we
34:56 are looking at at the moment . . . “

Or, have 5 years? {unlikely?}.
“The greatest threat to humanity on Earth is the escalating Arctic atmospheric methane buildup, caused by the destabilization of subsea methane hydrates. This subsea Arctic methane hydrate destabilization will go out of control in 2024 and lead to a catastrophic heatwave by 2026.”

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