Steel Manufacturing Hub – The foundation for a decarbonised society

Future Steel Manufacturing Research Hub

The SUSTAIN project is delivering innovative scientific and engineering research required to create carbon neutral, resource-efficient UK steel supply chains.

Professor Dave Worsley Personal Chair Materials Science and Engineering at Swansea University and Director of the SUSTAIN Future Manufacturing Hub

Steel is a key stakeholder in global decarbonisation. The industry’s global output has risen to 1.8 billion tonnes of raw product per annum with an associated 3.6 billion tonnes of CO2 being emitted into the environment.

In the UK alone, its production currently accounts for 15% of total annual industrial CO2 emissions due to the constant need for this ubiquitous material that underpins the modern world. The UK contributes approximately 7 million tonnes of steel and 15 million tonnes of CO2 from five intensive facilities which will enable a focused and manageable decarbonisation approach.

The SUSTAIN Future Manufacturing Hub is a £35m project core funded by £10m of EPSRC funds over seven years. The project is led by Swansea University, with spokes at the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick and partners five of the largest steel producers in the UK.

Over its duration, the SUSTAIN Hub will provide a low TRL platform for the development of new, smarter, more environmentally and ecologically sustainable industrial processes to ensure the future of steel manufacturing in the UK.

With the aim of identifying and developing solutions for a greener, cleaner, smarter future, the work within the SUSTAIN Hub focuses on two Grand Challenge areas – Carbon Neutral Iron and Steelmaking, and Smart Steel Processing.

Within these challenges sit five themes, containing the Hub’s current projects:

Emissions Management and Utilisation – capture and conversion of CO2 into useful products such as fuels

Zero Waste Steelmaking – powering steel plants from waste material and developing a framework to allow for more efficient scrap re-use

Data-Driven Innovation – developing business models for the entire steel supply chain and integrating smart systems for production and maintenance of steel plants

Smart Low Energy Production – functionalising waste heat from steelmaking and investigating green hydrogen use

New Processes for New Products – using novel chemistries, processes and measurements to improve the efficiency and consistency of existing high value steels

To enable a net-zero carbon future in the UK, it is essential research groups, industry and government work together: to share best practice and outcomes from testing new technologies, to develop new business models which work across the supply chain, and to encourage new practices to reduce emissions, waste material and manufacturing costs.

Only through collaboration can we drive the changes needed for the steel industry to decarbonise and be leaders of the low carbon future.

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Success Stories


The future of the steel industry depends on the integration of production units where the resource use is optimised for profitability and sustainability. Blast furnace and coke oven gases contain CO2 which, on removal, can help deliver purified components including carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

While the production of steel is of core importance to the industry, integrated steelworks could make additional income from by-product streams, including the conversion of CO2 to value-added products.

Thermochemical and electrochemical conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbons and oxygenates (e.g. ethylene DME) and algae biorefinery conversion of CO2 to lipids and proteins are crucial to this approach.


Synthesis of CO2 capture materials completed at gram scale for testing in dynamic breakthrough system

Lab scale CO2 electrolyser for production of hydrocarbons operational

Protocol for preparing self-supported gas diffusion electrodes for robust CO2 conversion completed

Biorefinery demonstrator deployed at Vale

eDME identified as the primary fuel target as a ground transport alternative to the steel works


The UK currently exports approximately 10 million tonnes of scrap steel each year which could be recycled locally. The biggest challenge for the increased use of scrap is the impurities inherited from the scrap that influence the steel processing and service properties of steel products, particularly for automotive, aerospace, energy and railway applications.

SUSTAIN is helping provide fundamental understanding
and technology development to maximise the scrap usage in manufacturing high quality steel products more economically,
by investigating the influence of residual elements inherited
from steel scrap on the processability and properties of typical steel products.

This will help achieve net zero emissions and maintain the sustainability and profitability of the UK steel industry.


Impurity and alloying elements for steel scraps and typical steel products have been identified, which is used for the design of the research matrix

Metallurgical understanding about the behaviour of various residual elements, individually and synergistically at high (>1,200°C) and low temperatures (<1,200°C) during the casting process, has been critically reviewed, with a focus on local enrichment and cracking caused by the residual elements

Three existence forms of copper have been found in the as-cast low carbon free cutting steels (LCFCS). Their evolution caused by the heat treatment at 1,200°C has been studied

The co-existence of copper and manganese silicate oxides and their evolution upon heat treatment has been investigated