Labour In A Spin Over Green Steel Job Losses


By Paul Homewood

One of the inevitabilities of life is how the Labour Party ties itself into knots over the contradictions of its own policies.

The news that the Port Talbot is likely to shed 3000 jobs as it transitions to “green steel”, as well as costing taxpayers £500 million, really should not come as a shock to Miliband and co, even given their low IQs.

Even so, it has.

Apparently in their own little dream world, you can uproot proven efficient technology, and replace it with expensive, less productive green technology, while at the same time saving money and creating loads of green jobs.

The Trades Unions are understandably furious, but at least they have been consistent in opposing the drive to Net Zero if it costs jobs.

As for the politicians though, take the son of Lord Kinnock of Brussels:

Does he not realise that Ed Miliband has been calling for arc furnaces to replace blast furnaces for years?

Electric Arc Furnaces (EAFs) rely mainly on scrap steel, which tends to be of highly unreliable provenance – in simple English, you have not got much idea what is in it!.

This does not, however, mean that EAFs cannot produce high quality steel. On the contrary. I worked in the 1970s at the brand new Stainless Steel Melting Shop in Sheffield, which used an EAF to produce alloy and stainless steels for the most demanding applications. EAFs are able to control steel specifications to a high degree, but first of all most of the scrap used needs to be of reasonable quality. (BTW – In drove past it again today, and it still brings back memories!)

Probably about half our scrap came from onsite operations, the rolling mills etc. We also used a lot of motor car bales, as a car is of a fairly well known property. And we also bought in stainless steel scrap, which by definition had to be of proven quality.

But somewhat surprisingly to some, we also used plenty of pig iron, as this too was uncontaminated.

Although there are already small EAF “mini-mills”in the UK, which are tailored to producing small batches of steel for specific orders, it is questionable whether there is enough high quality scrap in the UK to produce steel in bulk. Port Talbot, for instance, produces 3.3 million tonnes a year of steel strip.

A side issue is that EAFs produce much less steel than the blast furnace/BOS route. Port Talbot’s blast furnaces, for example produce 3.6 million tonnes a year of liquid iron. A typical EAF turns out maybe half a million tonnes a year.

Neither Tata or the government has stated how many EAFs will be built in this new investment, but I strongly suspect they will not replace all of its current output at Port Talbot.

This suspicion is reinforced by the fact that, according to the BBC, Tata’s workforce at Port Talbot is around 4000. Shutting down two blast furnaces certainly won’t save 3000 jobs, which leaves the logical conclusion that most of the job losses will come from the rest of the steelworks – ie rolling mills, finishing mills, and so on.

That inevitably points to a much lower level of steel production.

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Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 2:09 am

On the contrary. I worked in the 1970s at the brand new Stainless Steel Melting Shop in Sheffield”
t wouldn’t have been called green steel then.
The US, which is not usually a green leader, produces 70% of its steel from EAFs. It all seems to work.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 2:14 am

The U.K. is very different to the US

Chalk and cheese, dear boy

Rational Keith
Reply to  strativarius
September 16, 2023 5:03 pm

Do you spell ‘energy’ differently?
UK and US both have coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydro-electric (over 1500 sites in Britain), oil, … all used to produce electricity.
Price will vary.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 2:33 am

EAFs power by COAL and GAS. !!

“as well as the increasing use of natural gas in place of coal and coke”

No “greener” (whatever the **** that means), than any other steel.”

Probably LESS green, since it doesn’t produce quite as much CO2….

You do know that “green” comes from plants using CO2, don’t you, little-nick !

what a maroon.jpg
Nick Stokes
Reply to  bnice2000
September 16, 2023 2:39 am

The claim here is that it won’t work at all, not that it won’t save emissions.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 2:46 am

So 3000 job losses are a big success then?

It isn’t going to work, but what the hell it’s only tax payers money down the Taff

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 2:55 am

Poor Nick, you have failed yet again.

“This is due to the high percentage of steel made from recycling scrap to make new steel,”

EAFs are ok when you have plenty of old steel to recycle,..

… but not good for producing new steel from raw iron ore.. That requires CARBON..

Your base-level ignorance of any sort of engineering or manufacturing has made a joke of your comment, yet again.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 6:22 am

The red herring fallacy is one often used by Mr. Stokes.

Reply to  Scissor
September 16, 2023 11:44 am

I’m not sure if this is a red herring or a strawman.
Since Nick is arguing against a claim that nobody made.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 8:13 am

How is it supposed to work at all if it’s too expensive? We’re not talking about a thought experiment, we’re talking about people’s jobs, people’s lives really and not just the steel industry but all their suppliers and customers and all the other businesses that are frequented by the employees.

Once the customers lose access to the cheaper blast furnace steel, they will lose their customers and so the avalanche begins.

I can’t believe how flippant you are on this subject – it’s a total f-up on the part of the brain dead government which is supposed to act on behalf of the voters, but seems hell-bent on being friends with the small eco-nazi fringe.

The western world is insane.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 9:48 am

Electricity prices are too high in the UK for EAF to gain percentage share, it’s the reason we export so much scrap steel where it’s economical to use the EAF method because the electricity is produced from fossil fuels.

Rational Keith
Reply to  Rusty
September 16, 2023 5:11 pm

So build more nuclear power plants.

Reply to  Rational Keith
September 16, 2023 5:23 pm


Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 11:42 am

Nobody claimed that it won’t work. The claim is that it is a stupid decision that won’t achieve the stated goals.

Richard Page
Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 3:21 pm

No it isn’t, stop making stuff up as you go along – the contention is that it will cost far more and be far less efficient – not that it won’t work.

Rational Keith
Reply to  Richard Page
September 16, 2023 5:12 pm

What do you mean by ‘work’?
If a grand scheme is far more costly and far less efficient I say the scheme won’t work.

The Real Engineer
Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 3:04 am

I see that Nick didn’t understand the article and his comment is mad. Steelmaking from Iron ore is a two stage process, Iron ore (Iron oxide) needs to be reduced to pure Iron, and this process requires that the oxide is removed with carbon to give pure Iron (Pig Iron). This is possible by using natural gas as the reducing agent in an electric arc furnace, but still turns all the oxygen into CO2! It also requires that natural gas is very cheap as huge quantities are needed, for PT about 5 million tons per year at least! The other Iron products mentioned in the article are already at least partially reduced, and the necessary quantity of high grade steel scrap is probably not available at present prices, as we export a lot to India etc. We usually use coke in a blast furnace to provide both the heat and the carbon for the reduction, overall this is the cheapest method available, and the result is very pure iron, with some Iron carbide, easily dealt with in a Bessemer converter of basic open hearth process to make good quality steel. This second process is still needed even with arc heated Iron reduction, and somewhere along the line is going to make this change uneconomic. Nothing here is “greener”, it is just nonsense containing the word “electric” to sound good. BTW we make cars here in quantity using the steel strip (rolls of clean fine steel) , importing this could well make car production difficult or even impossible and expensive. Electric arc furnaces of the size required will need all of the Welsh wind plus some, and 24/7 too, so most will come from Gas at much greater cost than coal.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  The Real Engineer
September 16, 2023 4:50 am

his comment is mad”
My comment was simply that the US produces 70% of its steel via EAF. How is that “mad”? It was supported by a link to the American Iron and Steel Institute, who said:

“The United States produces a much higher portion of its steel from electric arc furnaces (EAFs) compared to global competitors, resulting in lower emissions of CO2 from steelmaking. In 2020, 70.6 percent of U.S. steelmaking came from EAFs, compared to 26.3 percent worldwide.”

I am very well aware of the difference between steel processing and iron reduction. But this article was about EAFs. I try to stick to topic.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 6:45 am

It’s mad because it has nothing to do with the UK

Nick Stokes
Reply to  strativarius
September 16, 2023 12:33 pm

That is an expansive definition of mad.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 3:14 pm

Look in the mirror, Nick

You will see mad, twisted and deranged staring back at you.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 8:16 am

You deliberately left out the part why the US can produce proportionately more from EAF than the UK, and so you are a propagandist.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 8:24 am

Nick, here is what was being commented on:”The claim here is that it won’t work at all, not that it won’t save emissions.”

The heart of the article is job losses.

Reply to  mkelly
September 16, 2023 3:22 pm

Nick couldn’t give a stuff about job losses…

… so he tried a petty distraction.

Reply to  bnice2000
September 16, 2023 5:24 pm

Nick’s on a fully funded government pension … he doesn’t give a fig about anybody else.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 3:20 pm

Again.. your ignorance is the highlight of your post.

No, this article is about UK steel PRODUCTION…

… and the inability of EAF to do that task.

That is what blast furnaces are for.

You deliberately tried to distract from the topic.

EAF is great for re-manufacturing old steel.

But is not much use from making new steel.

I know your education in any sort of engineering is basically nil…

…. but is that really too hard for you to grasp.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 8:06 am

” It all seems to work.” – because the US has much cheaper electricity! Can’t have so-called green steel with so-called green electricity! Lies on top lies – vanity, vanity, it’s all vanity.

Thanks for adding nothing but irritation to the conversation.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 16, 2023 10:02 am

And 30% IS NOT produced by EAF’s…

There’s another aspect of AISI fact sheet. If reducing carbon emissions is a primary goal, then the US should prohibit import of steel in any form from the likes of India and China.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 17, 2023 2:08 am

The Labour Party shut down the coal industry with Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act. Top Labour leader such as Benn always attended the Durham Miners Gala then stabbed them in the back in true conspiratorial style

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 17, 2023 3:36 am

EAFs require cheap supplies of hydroelectric power. Such furnaces are popular in Scandinavia along plasms arc furnaces

Reply to  cagwsceptic
September 17, 2023 6:58 am

—along with plasma arc furnaces

Reply to  Nick Stokes
September 17, 2023 6:54 am

EAFs used to smelt steel plant dusts that contain essentially Zn Oxide due to galvanizing. It a difficult operation due to rapid re-oxidation of Zn

September 16, 2023 2:10 am

“”a much lower level of steel production.””

To go with the new [Welsh] national 20mph speed limit – starting tomorrow. Will ambulances be allowed to go faster?

Wales is the test bed for Labour. And it ignores that which isn’t convenient or is off message

Reply to  strativarius
September 16, 2023 2:34 am

 national 20mph speed limit”

Perfect for electric golf-carts. !

Reply to  bnice2000
September 16, 2023 2:42 am

“”Keir Starmer said last year that the Welsh government had provided ‘a blueprint for what Labour can do across the UK’.””

Reply to  strativarius
September 16, 2023 8:20 am

That’s crazy! I would have to drive around in 2nd gear! What is green about that?

Reply to  PCman999
September 16, 2023 3:28 pm

Driving around in 2nd gear greatly increases CO2 emissions/km !

Great for plant life… hence… green !. 🙂

Peta of Newark
September 16, 2023 2:37 am

Surely shirley, in order to (keep) recycling ‘stuff’, any stuff, at some point you need someone somewhere creating new ‘stuff’
Because no system of usage can ever be 100% lossless. Especially for Iron/Steel which rusts, gets buried forever as rebar inside concrete or sinks to the bottom of the sea.
Or just floats away as fine particulate dust from railways, vehicle braking systems and any/all processes where it is rolled, hammered, pressed, cut and welded. ###
i.e. Made into something.

Therein is The Problem here- Electric Arc Furnaces cannot and do not make new steel. In order to make new steel (from Iron Ore), you need a blast furnace and all blast furnaces require carbon.
Okaaaaay, Hydrogen will suffice to remove Oxygen from Iron Oxide but, in order to create Iron from Haematite (Fe₂O₃) for every 2 atoms of Iron you make, you’d need 3 atoms of Carbon and 12 atoms of Hydrogen

Where’s it all coming from?

### As a fine wind-borne particulate, it would be very useful in the business of Global Greening or especially, Oceanic Greening. ‘most all bio/ecosystems are deficient in ‘available’ Iron (Fe₂+)

Not least our own personal selves these days – hence some part of the contemporary low birth rate but also manifests as Autism when combined with Vitamin B deficiency
Making healthy and properly functioning children requires lots of Iron
Simply maintaining a healthy body requires lots of Iron > every day 200 quarts of blood go into your kidneys but only 198 come back out – hence why poo is the colour it is.
It’s full of old blood = Rust.
<Cue lame jokes about blast (furnaces)>

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 16, 2023 2:49 am

*four atoms Iron requires 3 atoms Carbon or 12 atoms Hydrogen

Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 17, 2023 3:46 am

Ever heard of the HYL sponge iron process using natural gas as the reductant

September 16, 2023 2:39 am

a much lower level of steel production.”

Don’t worry.. the UK will be able to import “hi-quality” {lol} steel from China !

The CO2 emissions in China don’t count toward “global” emissions, y’know. !

Tom Johnson
Reply to  bnice2000
September 16, 2023 3:50 am

China doesn’t need to worry about CO2 emissions because it’s ALREADY communist.

Reply to  Tom Johnson
September 16, 2023 4:10 am

Good comment !! 🙂

Reply to  bnice2000
September 16, 2023 6:24 am

Yes, it succinctly gets to the root of the matter.

Reply to  Tom Johnson
September 16, 2023 8:24 am

Awesome comment – exactly the point of the green movement.

Ben Vorlich
September 16, 2023 4:12 am

How will this decision affect the Cumbrian coal mine which, I understood, was going to produce coking coal for the British steel plants? Was the decision to go all electric in part due to the problems getting the mine approved?

No doubt the Greens and Stokes will be celebrating as jobs move eastwards and emissions of CO2 increase, and proper pollution also increases

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
September 16, 2023 7:55 am

Most UK steel producers are already owned by foreign companies, except for Sheffield Forgemasters which is owned by the MOD!

UK steel production was a little over 7m tons in 2022.

On the world front, however, steel production is booming having risen from 189m tonnes in 1950 to 1.951bn tonnes in 2021. So still heavy requirement for coking coal.

Reply to  Dave Andrews
September 16, 2023 10:12 am

The Chinese steel industry emits more CO2 in 3 months than the entire UK does in 1 year.

And that was when world wide steel production was about 1.8 billion tonnes and the Chinese had just hit 1 billion tonnes in production. I think that was 2020.

September 16, 2023 4:41 am

It’s endemic around the world today. We are being run by professional politicians, bureaucrats, and lawyers who have never actually *MADE* anything from scratch in their entire lives. It doesn’t matter if it is the US, China, Germany, UK, etc. They are all run by the same bunch of elites who think all yu have to do is snap your fingers or wriggle your nose and magic happens.

Those who *can* make, make. Those who can’t make try to run the lives of those who can make. Sadly, it’s going to get worse, far worse before it gets better. The French Revolution *will* be played out sooner or later globally and it won’t be pretty.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
September 16, 2023 6:29 am

It truly is unrealistic to expect that politicians who are unable to balance a checkbook to be able to direct any activity more complex than filling a pothole. Even then, their incompetence is apparent.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
September 16, 2023 8:42 am

We’re all being led by moron “leaders” that think everything is easy because all they do is tell someone else to do it.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
September 17, 2023 9:32 am

who have never actually *MADE* anything from scratch

“Farming’s not that hard, just put a seed in the ground and water it”

More Soylent Green!
September 16, 2023 9:16 am

Who would guess buying everything from China instead of making it domestically would cause job losses? Inconceivable!

September 16, 2023 9:33 am

‘Green Steel’! I’ve heard of high carbon steel,. Do they make it from tree sap, or something?

September 16, 2023 9:43 am

EAFs don’t produce new steel even if their output is called crude or raw steel, they essentially recycle it. No one charges an EAF with 100% pig iron as it’s uneconomical to do so. The Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) is far more efficient.

The UK has been reducing the amount of raw steel it produces for decades and the percentage of steel made from scrap using EAF has steadily been increasing, but way down on the international average let alone the US which (re?) produces some 70% using this method.

It makes sense for countries with high imports made from steel to recycle this using EAFs.

The problem for the UK is electricity prices are far too high and thus EAF costs are too high. Instead we export scrap steel to India, Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt along with others whilst importing finished goods made from steel such as cars made from that very scrap.

If electricity prices were lower we could recycle more steel. That will never happen because renewable energy via wind and solar is too expensive.

Finn McCool
Reply to  Rusty
September 17, 2023 9:30 am

There seems to be some misconception in the comments that arc furnaces cannot be used to make ‘new’ steel. You will find many installations across the world which process imported iron ore via the DRI route. Home scrap is used as a coolant along with some imported scrap.
However, replacing the BF-BOF system at Port Talbot with arc furnaces will never work. Huge capex. High energy costs. DRI would be unworkable – it tends to oxidise rapidly when wet.

September 16, 2023 10:47 am

There is an extremely simple and easy way to test all of these supposedly ‘green’ alternatives. If they’re so easy and simple, just ask why they haven’t already taken over from existing technology. Let’s face it, the UK steel industry needs all the help it can get, so if EAFs were as efficient and economic as claimed they’d already be in widespread use; and while they are used, this certainly isn’t widespread.

As for jobs, the Labour party will soon discover that everything to do with Net Zero creates far more problems than it solves. This would be funny if UK taxpayers weren’t the ones who will have to pay for it.

Ed Zuiderwijk
September 16, 2023 11:05 am

During the Covid episode many patients ended up in intensive care. The health service was very short of oxygen, had to import from Europe. Why? Because of the demise of the steel industry. The large quantities of oxygen used for steel production required have a large production capacity for the stuff. That disappeared with the steel production.

Unintended consequences of dumbfek policies enacted by an ignorant and incompetent political class.

September 16, 2023 5:19 pm

Use the most efficient process available, don’t pander to politics on issues as important as manufacturing steel.

lyn roberts
September 17, 2023 1:56 am

good lord. Do these MP’s really think that their milk and eggs come from the supermarket. Somehow by some magical process they simply appeared on the shelf so the great and good can purchase them. I fear that our MP’s really believe that the car’s they drive, the clothes they wear just arrive the same way, magical thinking and totally mad. If we keep going down this path there is going to be alot of MP’s without jobs, joining the great unemployed masses.

Reply to  lyn roberts
September 17, 2023 4:01 am

If we keep going down this path there is going to be alot of MP’s without jobs, joining the great unemployed masses.”

Assuming the guillotine doesn’t see a revival.

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