John Cockerill extends its Metals product portfolio to Iron & Steel Making in support of the steel value chain’s decarbonization efforts

May 06th 2024

With the iron and steel industry being one of the most energy-consuming industries, all major players are committed to address the pressing need for climate action and are to make strategic decisions to get on the decarbonization pathway. To support the decarbonizing steel industry, John Cockerill has been, and currently is, developing best-in-class technologies with the predominant objective to allow its steelmaking clients to address the three megatrends likely to play a crucial role in the steel sector’s transition pathway to reach net-zero emissions: green steel, widening the horizons of electrification, produce ever lighter steel grades.

Meeting these trends presents challenges for the iron and steel sector. To support the steel value chain as it seeks to plot a more sustainable pathway while remaining competitive, John Cockerill Metals has created 3 distinct Business Segments to address todays and tomorrow’s challenges: 

  • Iron & Steelmaking
  • Processing & Rolling
  • Services & Energy Efficiency

While the Processing & Rolling segment is regrouping our historical downstream product portfolio, the newly created Iron & Steelmaking segment is focusing on John Cockerill Metals’ new upstream offering related to Volteron® (direct electrolysis), DRI (Direct Reduced Iron), EAF (Electric Arc Furnaces) technologies and the use of hydrogen in steelmaking.

Knowing that especially in old coal-based steel plants, emissions can be reduced by up to 90% using more efficient technologies, the Services & Energy Efficiency segment is yet another important element of John Cockerill’s strategic imperative to support sustainable and green steel production. As such, this newly created segment not only embraces all services and after-sales activities but will be strongly focusing on downstream furnace electrification (reheating and processing line furnaces), as well as hydrogen combustion, and the optimization of plant operations, including energy audits and the modernization of steel production equipment and installations.

With its extended product portfolio, John Cockerill Metals now offers its steelmaking clients an exceptional opportunity for curbing their CO2 emissions.

Decarbonizing steelmaking: a strategic imperative

With hydrogen sparking change for the future of green steelmaking, the large amounts of hydrogen produced by electrolyzers on site, coupled with electrification is currently the ultimate form of green steelmaking in a net zero economy.  It is expected that 64% of the total primary steel production projected for 2050 is associated with H2-DRI-EAF followed at 25% by DRI-EAF equipped with CCS (carbon capture & storage) technology. While the DRI-EAF route is using electricity to produce direct reduced iron (DRI), which is then processed in an electric arc furnace (EAF) to produce steel, the H2-DRI-EAF route involves the use of hydrogen (H2).

The unique combination of John Cockerill’s extensive knowledge of the steel value chain along with its high-performance alkaline electrolysers and integrated project execution solutions, are allowing steelmakers to produce green hydrogen meeting the characteristics necessary to serve as a reducing agent in the liquid phase of steelmaking all while cutting the end-to-end cost of its making.

Next to offering innovative technologies aiming at decarbonizing iron reduction and steel production via indirect electrification (DRI-EAF & H2-DRI-EAF), John Cockerill is also working on Volteron®. A first-of-a-kind iron reduction and steel processing route demonstrating the possibility of producing iron via direct electrolysis. Considered to be breakthrough in terms of low carbon steelmaking and expected to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions significantly, this CO2 free steelmaking process, has been co-developed by our process experts along with the world’s biggest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal. The first Volteron® plant producing commercial steel through direct renewable electrification at an industrial scale is scheduled to be operational by 2027.

By proposing both possible paths for the liquid steelmaking phase: direct and indirect electrification powered by renewable energy sources, John Cockerill holds a unique position in the market.

Processing & Rolling: game changing downstream technologies

John Cockerill Metals’ iron and steelmaking portfolio is completed by its downstream processing technologies including the break-through Jet Vapor Deposition (JVD®) technology. A novel high-productivity vacuum coating technology with superior properties offering steelmakers previously unknown coating flexibility and possibilities, all while being cost effective. On the back of its numerous advantages, the JVD® technology is expected to replace today’s hot-dip or electro galvanizing processes in the years to come.

Another important recent extension of John Cockerill Metals’ downstream processing portfolio of solutions is its E-Si® product range. With e-mobility and EV (electric vehicles) adoption on the rise, steelmakers will be forced to increase production capacity to face the projected drastically growing demand. The electrical steel of tomorrow is to be strong, lightweight, high permeability and meet precise metallurgical properties, including a higher silicon content making it harder, but also more difficult to process. John Cockerill Metals’ E-Si® equipment and processing lines are specifically designed to produce high-quality Non-Grain Oriented (NGO) steel in response to these developments and essential to support the shift towards green mobility.

Set to become one of the industry’s global leaders

With its thorough understanding of steelmaking rooted in the long history and cultural heritage of the John Cockerill Group founded in 1817, and its attested 100+ years leadership in furnace electrification backed by the acquisition of the former EFCO (Electric Furnace Company) in 2003, John Cockerill Metals has a unique know how to leverage to the benefit of its clients.

Firmly grounded in decades of steel processing know how, the unique combination of its historic and recently developed product portfolio, along with the ongoing product extensions in the field of iron and steelmaking and energy efficiency, are to make John Cockerill one of the industry’s most relevant providers of equipment for both the hot and cold phase of the steelmaking and processing industry by 2030.

Siderwin pilot plant
John Cockerill
inside a zinc-coating line