Excess heat from steelworks could be stored and reused with new material

Researchers are looking at how waste heat can be captured from the steelmaking process and reused or even moved to another location.

 A team involving scientists from Swansea University and Tata Steel are focusing on a thermochemical heat storage material developed at the University’s SPECIFIC Innovation & Knowledge Centre.

Currently, heavy industries can release up to half of their consumed energy as waste heat.

The heat generated by the giant Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales (UK) is equivalent to the heating demand of 500,000 homes; capturing and re-using it would offset more than a million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Lead researcher Dr Jonathon Elvins said: “Our ultimate aim is to be able to store this previously-wasted energy for long periods, and to transport it to where it is needed. For example, it could be used to provide low or zero carbon heat for industrial processes or for heating buildings such as homes, offices or schools.”

Richie Hart, Process Technology Manager at Tata Steel, said: “As an energy-intensive industry our Port Talbot site is continually developing energy efficiency measures but low-level heat energy is always very difficult to recover.

“This project offers the potential to derive value from this form of heat, also helping drive down the regional CO2 footprint.”

The project has been awarded £250,000 funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and the FLEXISApp partnership which includes the Universities of Swansea, Cardiff and South Wales.

FLEXISApp is able to part-fund the commercial development of technologies that focus on industrial decarbonisation and greenhouse gas reduction.

Principal investigator for FLEXISApp, Professor Dave Worsley, said: “The partnership project MESH is an exciting one. Dr Jon Elvins, his team at SPECIFIC and Tata Steel have already made great progress with research in Thermal Heat Storage.”

The UK’s steel sector has been struggling to stay afloat in the last few years as huge levels of production from China have brought prices down globally.

In March, British Steel was bought by the Chinese firm Jingye Group which helped to secure around 3,200 jobs.