As a member of an industry that leads the global steel sector in voluntary emissions reductions and energy conservation, AK Steel focuses on operating in an environmentally responsible manner. The company takes a proactive approach to environmental management by following its comprehensive environmental policy.
AK Steel’s Environmental Policy
- Commit the necessary resources to comply with all applicable environmental laws, regulations, permits and agreements to which AK Steel subscribes;
- Reduce environmental risks through operating practices and emergency preparedness programs;
- Encourage recycling, recovery and reuse of residual materials, as well as the reduction and prevention of emissions and releases to the extent demonstrated feasible;
- Participate in efforts with respect to the development and implementation of environmental laws and regulations;
- Evaluate on a routine basis compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations; and
- Strive for continual improvement in the effectiveness of its environmental management efforts.
In addition, all AK Steel plants have received ISO 14001 environmental management certification, and the company employs a full-time environmental staff to manage environmental compliance throughout the corporation.
The company also invests heavily in equipment to help meet its environmental objectives. For example, from 2003 through 2012, AK Steel spent approximately $85 million on environmental capital projects and approximately $1.16 billion to operate and maintain the company’s environmental controls.
AK Steel recycles significant amounts of raw materials and steelmaking byproducts each year. In fact, the company recycles approximately 800,000 tons of scrap metal annually – keeping everything from vehicles to appliances out of the landfill. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, steel is the most recycled material on the planet. At a recycling rate of 92 percent, more steel is recycled each year than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined. In addition, the company reuses millions of gallons of water each hour in closed loop systems within its plants, and recycles hundreds of tons of refractory bricks used in several types of steelmaking equipment.
Metallurgical coke is a critical raw material for steelmaking. Using state-of-the-art co-generation technology to produce coke, AK Steel’s coke supplier is able to convert waste heat into steam and electricity. Not only does this process provide the company with more than one-million tons of coke per year for its blast furnaces, it produces about 75 megawatts of electricity as well. That represents about 90 percent of AK Steel’s coke needs and 15 percent of its electricity requirements each year.
Conservation of Natural Resources
AK Steel has also taken action to conserve and protect natural resources. For example, in 2008, AK Steel’s plant in Coshocton, Ohio, began several initiatives designed to benefit the environment and local wildlife found on the company’s property.
As a result of those efforts, the plant received Wildlife at Work Certification in 2009 from the Wildlife Habitat Council, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat. The company also received “Wildlife at Work Recertification” in 2011. Since the summer of 2008, AK Steel has restored more than 20 acres of plant property into native Ohio prairie land. The restored area includes several nesting boxes for bluebirds and purple martins, as well as native flowers and grasses. The company will maintain the restored area and plans to expand the prairie over time.
In recognition of its commitment to the conservation of natural resources at Coshocton Works, AK Steel received Honda’s “Green Factory Environmental Achievement Award” in 2010. The company also sponsors the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission’s “River Sweep” – a program designed to restore the Ohio River’s natural beauty – and was named a finalist for the 2011 Environmental Stewardship Award from American Metal Market (AMM), a leading metal industry publication.
In addition, in October of 2011, AK Steel formed Magnetation LLC, a joint venture with a private company, to produce iron ore feedstock and pellets from legacy reserves in Minnesota. The joint venture utilizes magnetic separation technology to recover iron ore from existing stockpiles of previously mined material. Utilizing these iron ore “tailings” eliminates the need for traditional drilling, blasting and excavating, and can result in the creation of new wetlands in an environmentally responsible manner.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Steel is fundamental to the sustainability of the global economy. It is used extensively to build and maintain electrical power and transportation infrastructures, urban centers and clean water supply systems. While greenhouse gas emissions are a natural byproduct of steel manufacturing today, AK Steel continues to take steps to increase energy efficiency while remaining competitive in the global steel marketplace.
For example, through the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), AK Steel participates in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Climate VISION agreement. This program assists domestic steelmakers in their continued efforts to lead the global steel sector in voluntary emissions reductions. In fact, since 1990, the U.S. steel industry has reduced the total amount of energy required to produce one ton of steel by 27 percent, and CO2 emissions by 33 percent – significantly exceeding the reduction targets established under the Kyoto Protocol.
Furthermore, the American steel industry is recognized for having the steepest decline of total air emissions among nine manufacturing sectors – making it the only significant industry in the U.S. to reduce its energy consumption while increasing its production from 1990 to 2005, according to the U.S. EPA’s 2008 Sector Strategies Performance Report.
AK Steel is also a member of the U.S. Government’s ENERGY STAR program, which identifies and promotes energy-efficient products to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, helping businesses and consumers save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
As a member of the American Iron and Steel Institute, AK Steel supports research into steelmaking technologies aimed at dramatically reducing CO2 emissions in the future. Under the leadership of the AISI, the domestic steel industry is participating in several groundbreaking studies. For example, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working to produce iron by molten oxide electrolysis – a technique that generates virtually zero CO2 emissions.
At the University of Utah, another project is underway to produce iron by hydrogen flash smelting – a process that replaces carbon fuel with hydrogen.
Although it will take years to develop and deploy such technologies, AK Steel’s support, through the AISI, represents another example of the company’s commitment to addressing greenhouse gas emissions and being part of an industry solution.
AK Steel also participates in the AISI’s Life Cycle Analysis program, which studies the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by the production, use and end-of-life (recycling or disposal) phases of a product. Steel remains a material of choice because of its strength, its ability to enhance the efficiency of end-use products and its high rate of recyclability.