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Algoma Steel launches transition to decarbonize production

Richard McDonald
U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers
The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge connects southern Ontario to northern Michigan.

A major supplier of steel products for the Midwest and Canada is decarbonizing.

Algoma Steel, based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is replacing its coal-powered equipment with electric furnaces. The company also plans to start using scrap metal instead of iron ore.

"Once we get through the conversion, we will completely switch over to electricity and recycled metal versus iron and coal-based steelmaking," said Laura Devino, the director of strategy and sustainability with Algoma.

Devino said the transition will expand steel production by 30% and cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 70%.

"It's one of the largest industrial decarbonization projects in Canada, if not the largest," Devino said. "The impacts are massive: a 3 million ton (of annual) perpetual reduction of greenhouse gases. That's a lot of bang for your buck."

Devino said the blast furnaces were nearing the end of their life, and the company decided to make the approximate $650 million (USD) switch.

She said the transition will reduce long-term and daily operating costs for the company, as well as address Canada's carbon tax.

Electric-arc steelmaking will begin next year at a limited capacity.

"We should be through construction at the end of the year, we will begin hot commissioning in 2025," Devino said. "And we will sunset coke and iron once we have the (necessary) power to the facility."

Algoma Steel can currently produce around 2.8 million tons of raw steel products a year. The switch is estimated to boost that to 3.7 million tons.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.
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