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Electrification and Partnership: The Key to Decarbonizing Heavy Industries in Glass and Steel Manufacturing

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As the world becomes more focused on reducing carbon emissions, organizations in the glass and steel industries are transforming their operations to lower their carbon footprint. This transformation involves a migration from fossil fuels to green electricity in the glass industry and from coal-fired blast furnaces to Electric Arc Furnaces and Direct Reduced Iron processes that use natural gas or green hydrogen in the steel industry. This move to the electrification of operations will allow these firms to lower carbon emissions dramatically.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy that are formed from the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago. They include coal, oil, and natural gas and are extracted from the ground through mining or drilling. When these fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

On the other hand, green electricity is generated from renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind, and hydro power. These sources of energy are considered “green” because they are replenished naturally and have a much lower carbon footprint compared to fossil fuels. Green electricity is produced using technologies that harness the power of natural resources and do not emit greenhouse gases, making them a much more sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

The transition to more sustainable operations is driven by shareholder and customer demand, increasing regulatory penalties, and the rising cost of fuel due to the European energy crisis. Steel manufacturers such as US Steel and Baowu Group have committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035, respectively.

To achieve these targets, global operations will need to rapidly migrate to electrified furnaces. However, technological innovation alone will not address the CO2 challenge. Electrification and automation of operations must be streamlined for core processes to run more efficiently.

In order to achieve electrification and automation of operations, there are several steps that can be taken:

  • Assess current operations: Companies should assess their current operations to identify areas where electrification and automation can be implemented. This can include upgrading existing equipment or installing new systems.
  • Develop a plan: A detailed plan should be developed that outlines the specific steps that need to be taken to achieve electrification and automation of operations. This plan should include timelines, cost estimates, and performance metrics.
  • Partner with experts: Working with experts in the field of electrification and automation can help companies identify the best solutions for their specific needs. This can include partnering with process OEMs (pOEMs) who specialize in designing, building, and installing new equipment or assets.
  • Implement new technology: Once a plan is developed, companies should begin implementing new technology that enables electrification and automation. This can include new electrical systems, process automation, and power systems convergence.
  • Train employees: As new technology is implemented, employees will need to be trained on how to use it effectively. This will ensure that the new systems are used to their full potential and that employees can troubleshoot issues as they arise.
  • Continuously monitor and optimize: Finally, companies should continuously monitor their operations and optimize their systems to ensure that they are operating as efficiently as possible. This can include analyzing data, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing new solutions as needed.

The process OEMs (pOEMs) who will design, build, and install the new equipment or assets will be critical to implementing this rapid change in operations. For pOEMs, rolling out new high-efficiency electrical furnaces at such a rate will be daunting. To take on this challenge and to service the magnitude of the demand across the steel and glass industries over the next few years, pOEMs will likely be motivated to establish new partnerships with suppliers who share both the vision and the capabilities to enable a decarbonized future for these heavy industries.

‘Process OEMs’ stands for ‘Process Original Equipment Manufacturers’. They are companies that design, build, and install equipment or assets for industrial processes in various industries. In the context of the provided text, process OEMs are companies that specialize in the design and installation of equipment used in the glass-making and steel-manufacturing industries, which are undergoing a dramatic migration from fossil fuel to green electricity and other sustainable alternatives. The process OEMs play a critical role in implementing the rapid change in operations required for electrification and automation of processes in these industries.

Schneider Electric™ can support the growing demand for electrification across these critical industries by working hand-in-hand with pOEMs. Schneider Electric can offer support in three ways: digital twin design tools, process automation and power systems convergence, and microgrid deployments.

New simulation platforms enable pOEM electrical systems engineers to run “what if” scenarios within digital twin software, minimizing project risks during the design phase. Process automation and power systems convergence can reduce costs by eliminating redundant systems and processes while increasing engineering efficiency. Finally, microgrid deployments can ensure reliability and provide access to renewable and traditional grid energy integration, enabling pOEMs to offer end-users low-risk, high-return solutions that can be quickly delivered.

The transition to electrified operations in the glass and steel industries is crucial in reducing carbon emissions. While technological innovation will address part of the CO2 challenge, it is important to streamline electrification and automation of operations for core processes to run efficiently. Partnerships between pOEMs and suppliers, such as Schneider Electric, will be critical in achieving the goal of a decarbonized future for these heavy industries.


Michal Pukala
Electronics and Telecommunications engineer with Electro-energetics Master degree graduation. Lightning designer experienced engineer. Currently working in IT industry.