A Comparison of Iron and Steel Production Energy Use and Energy Intensity in China and the U.S.

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Production of iron and steel is an energy-intensive manufacturing process. In 2006, the iron and steel industry accounted for 13.6% and 1.4% of primary energy consumption in China and the U.S., respectively (U.S. DOE/EIA, 2010a; Zhang et al., 2010). The energy efficiency of steel production has a direct impact on overall energy consumption and related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The goal of this study is to develop a methodology for making an accurate comparison of the energy intensity (energy use per unit of steelproduced) of steel production. The methodology is applied to the steel industry in China and the U.S. The methodology addresses issues related to boundary definitions, conversion factors, and indicators in order industry energy use to develop a common framework for comparing steel intensity energy use.

This study uses a bottom-up, physical-based method to compare the energy intensity of China and U.S. crude steel production in 2006. This year was chosen in order to maximize the availability of comparable steel-sector data. However, data published in China and the U.S. are not always consistent in terms of analytical scope, conversion factors, and information on adoption of energy-saving technologies. This study is primarily based on published annual data from the China Iron & Steel Association and National Bureau of Statistics in China and the Energy Information Agency in the U.S.

This report found that the energy intensity of steel production is lower in the United States than China primarily due to structural differences in the steel industry in these two countries. In order to understand the differences in energy intensity of steel production in both countries, this report identified key determinants of sector energy use in both countries. Five determinants analyzed in this report include: share of electric arc furnaces in total steel production, sector penetration of energy-efficiency technologies, scale of equipment, fuel shares in the iron and steel industry, and final steel product mix in both countries. The share of lower energy intensity electric arc furnace production in each country was a key determinant of total steel sector energy efficiency. Overall steel sector structure, in terms of average plant vintage and production capacity, is also an important variable though data were not available to quantify this in a scenario. The methodology developed in this report, along with the accompanying quantitative and qualitative analyses, provides a foundation for comparative international assessment of steel sector energy intensity.

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