Decarbonising primary steel production in Romania

The decarbonisation of primary steel production is one of the most pressing challenges for the future of Romania’s industry. A highly carbon-intensive process, conventional primary steelmaking faces increasing pressure to transform in the context of the EU’s climate commitments: a phase-out of free allocation under the EU Emissions Trading System, upcoming regulations on sustainable products, and a rapidly rising carbon price. This pressure is insufficiently recognised in Romania’s industrial and climate strategies: its Long-Term Strategy, draft National Energy and Climate Plan, and draft national Industrial Strategy all fail to account for the scale of the transformation challenge and the associated opportunities for green steelmaking. While Romania’s steel sector has shrunk since 1990, it still contributes significantly to the national economy and employment, and emits approx. 6.3% of total national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. These contributions are centred on Liberty Galați, Romania’s only remaining primary steel producer, which employed nearly 5,000 people in and emitted 4.39 mega-tonnes (Mt) of CO2 (5.9% of Romania’s total CO2 emissions) in 2021. It is a major contributor to economic activity in the Galați county, a Just Transition region, and is an essential part of any attempt to revive Romania’s upstream manufacturing sector and any ambition to supply domestic and foreign downstream sectors, such as the auto industry, with high-quality, low-carbon steel. The main pathway to deeply decarbonise conventional primary steelmaking is conversion of the conventional blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace (BF-BOF) process to the direct reduction of iron, coupled with melting in electric arc furnaces (DRI-EAF). To achieve deep decarbonisation, the DRI process must use low-carbon hydrogen as a reducing agent, and the whole steelmaking process must be supplied by renewable electricity. Transitioning from BF-BOF to hydrogen-based DRI-EAF production will shift the fuel mix of primary steelmaking from fossil-based to using primarily electricity and hydrogen, and will change raw material requirements, including an increased consumption of scrap steel. Other decarbonisation pathways include a complete conversion to secondary steel production (using scrap steel or imported green iron) or carbon capture, all with their own challenges. Liberty Galați has publicly announced a decarbonisation pathway involving a conversion from BF-BOF to DRI-EAF, using natural gas as a transitional DRI agent and fully switching to renewable hydrogen by 2030. This deep decarbonisation plan (the “GREENSTEEL plan”) will accompany a doubling in production, reaching 4.1 Mt of liquid steel by 2030. According to our estimates, executing the GREENSTEEL plan could slash emissions from the production of liquid steel (responsible for 81% of emissions in primary steel production) by 93% by 2030, a reduction of 3.26 Mt CO2 per year. This could give Liberty Galați a significant competitive edge as a green steel supplier, meeting increasing demand from downstream sectors such as the auto industry. It could also spur a local green economy, including for the production of renewable electricity and hydrogen to supply the DRI-EAF pathway, which will consume over 160,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year. To truly achieve deep decarbonisation, the transformation of Liberty Galați under the GREENSTEEL plan will require a massive mobilisation to deploy renewable energy capacities, invest in renewable hydrogen production, and secure a reliable supply of scrap steel. Electricity consumption of the steelmaking process alone would increase ten-fold, and even if hydrogen production is outsourced abroad, meeting the target specific emissions of the GREENSTEEL plan will require the carbon intensity of Romania’s electricity grid to halve. Using domestically-produced renewable hydrogen will require an additional 6.35 GW of renewable electricity capacity, 136% of Romania’s total installed wind and solar energy in January 2024. The renewable hydrogen requirement of Liberty Galați in 2030 would be more than currently stipulated in Romania’s national Hydrogen Strategy for the entire Romanian economy, and scrap steel consumption would increase four-fold, amounting to 80% of Romania’s current scrap exports. The investment cost of the transformation itself, including the operating costs of using renewable hydrogen, will likely require state support both directly and indirectly to increase investment certainty. If Romania’s primary steelmaking is to spearhead industrial transformation and revive the competitiveness of manufacturing, urgent action must be taken to provide concrete, detailed transformation plans which are accounted for in national industrial and climate strategies. Targeted and carefully sized public financing instruments, including Green Public Procurement and Carbon Contracts for Difference, will be essential to meet upfront investment costs, especially in the coming decade as industrial operators begin to strain under increasing carbon prices. Infrastructure development will also be crucial, most importantly the deployment of renewable electricity capacities, strengthening of Romania’s national electricity grid, installation of electrolysers and construction of hydrogen transport infrastructure. New supply chains for raw materials will also be needed, particularly a rethinking of Romania’s export-oriented scrap steel sector. These actions will be necessary regardless how Liberty Galați decarbonises and require a shift in the approach of policymakers to the challenges of Romania’s industrial transformation. Luciana Miu, EPG Head of Clean Economy Luciana Miu is the Head of Clean Economy at Energy Policy Group. She holds a Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Systems from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Energy Efficiency of Residential Buildings from the Imperial College London. Before joining EPG, Luciana worked for the UK Parliament and for the British Government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), as well as a consultant for Climate-KIC and London City Hall. Contact: luciana.miu@enpg.ro

What should Romania do to align with the EU 2040 climate targets? 

The Commission released a comprehensive impact assessment outlining potential approaches to reach the established objective of achieving climate neutrality in the European Union by 2050. In accordance with this assessment, the Commission suggests a 90% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, relative to 1990 levels. It also articulates several imperative policy conditions for achieving this target, including meeting 2030 goals, industrial competitiveness, and an inclusive dialogue on post-2030 climate action. In particular, a just transition with adequate measures for energy price affordability and the mitigation of social impact will be essential.     Quote Ioana Vasiliu - EPG Senior Researcher: "Romania, as a member of the EU, should align with this target and play a significant role in contributing to the overall climate action.  To set its commitment and ensure accountability, the implementation of Climate Law, including clear emissions goals for 2030, 2040, and 2050, is imperative. This legal framework will play a pivotal role in addressing essential aspects, including industrial competitiveness, where sectoral emissions reduction plans will be crucial for Romania’s industries to compete in a low carbon world. Enshrining energy efficiency targets into a Climate Law will also be key to increasing the rate and depth of renovation in Romania’s building stock, which are struggling to keep up with the pace required to meet the EU's climate goals.  Recognizing the socio-economic impact of the transition to climate neutrality, especially in terms of energy poverty, a just transition is crucial. Given the ambition of reducing EU-wide emissions by 90% until 2040, Member States must devote substantial attention to putting in place effective measures for managing the subsequent impact on jobs and local economies, which will be vital for a smooth transition towards a sustainable future.  To fully align with the EU's more ambitious 2040 climate targets, Romania also needs to intensify efforts in critical areas such as transportation and land use. By implementing policies that support sustainable agriculture and protect natural ecosystems, Romania can contribute to the EU's climate targets while also safeguarding its natural heritage."   Contact person: Luciana Miu – EPG Head of Clean Economy: luciana.miu@enpg.ro Ioana Vasiliu – EPG Senior Researcher: ioana.vasiliu@enpg.ro

The Industrial Carbon Management Strategy. What is good and where does it disappoint?

The European Commission’s first ever strategy governing carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) – the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy – is an important step for the deployment of CCS in Europe. For Romania and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), with potentially significant carbon storage capacity and important industries that will need to capture their emissions, this long-awaited Strategy sets a strategic direction which should enable firmer and quicker action on making CCUS a reality, and enabling a fair geographical spread of new technologies and infrastructure across a currently West-centric Europe.    Quote Luciana Miu - EPG Head of Clean Economy: "The Strategy does well to broach the subject of actual climate benefits of CCUS projects, including a focus on “process emissions” in the decade to 2030 and a chapter on the removal of atmospheric and biogenic CO2. However, the incoming Commission can be bolder in differentiating climate-positive use cases of CCUS, particularly given the vague language around capturing CO2 in the power sector in the EU’s 2040 climate target.  While restrictive lists of eligible capture sites may be counterproductive, there is really no such thing as “clean carbon”, and facilities should be required to conduct a thorough assessment of their technological options for reaching a clear emissions target, before requesting public funding for carbon capture.  Importantly, the Strategy also addresses the issues of CO2 transport, a key part of the CCUS value chain, and we hope to soon see an associated dedicated regulatory package on this complex issue, as indicated in the Strategy. Funding will also be available, with a call forthcoming for cross-border CO2 transport infrastructure under the Connecting Europe Facility. This is a good opportunity for CEE countries to plan regional CO2 transport, developing storage hubs in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea areas to balance the North Sea-focused CCS landscape in Europe. The commitment to develop minimum standards for CO2 streams is also welcome.  For an efficient decarbonisation of EU industries, it is vital that CCUS projects demonstrate climate benefits in line with emissions targets. Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) pathways which do not allow for carbon recycling (including e-fuels and Enhanced Hydrocarbon Recovery) should be subject to rigorous accounting to avoid unnecessary sunk costs and greenwashing. The Strategy’s promise to start addressing these issues in the 2026 EU ETS revision may not be enough to firmly direct EU CCUS sector towards projects with durable climate benefits. Indeed, this is the original remit of the CCUS Observatory, a watchdog project proposed by EPG and now being piloted by the European Commission.  It is disappointing to see the ever-neglected issue of public perception of CCUS only briefly addressed in the Strategy. As co-chair of the CCUS Forum’s Working Group on public perception of CCUS, EPG heard consistently from a wide range of stakeholders about the importance of considering public perception, particularly at community level, and engaging in earnest public dialogue for upcoming projects. The lack of a clear mandate for project developers to conduct transparent public engagement is a missed opportunity. It risks leading to a fragmented approach in aligning CCUS project deployment with social needs and concerns, and ensuring that CCUS is part of a Just Transition."   Contact person: Luciana Miu – EPG Head of Clean Economy: luciana.miu@enpg.ro

Meeting the revised Effort Sharing Regulation target in Romania. Measures for the buildings and transport sectors

Romania has one of the lowest targets under the revised Effort Sharing Regulation (-12.7% GHG emissions by 2030 compared to 2005) but given the relative neglect of the covered sectors over the past years, there will be distinct challenges for implementation, particularly in the buildings and transport sectors. At the very least, Romania should achieve its goal without overusing the available flexibility tools.

Strategia industrială a României 2023-2027: un prim pas lăudabil, dar prea mic pentru provocările industriei României

La finalul anului 2023, Guvernul României a publicat mult-așteptata Strategie industrială a României 2023-2027, promisă în programul coaliției de guvernare. Publicarea acestei strategii este un pas important în coagularea unui cadru instituțional capabil să gestioneze provocările multiple și intersectate ale industriei din România și să asigure o tranziție digitală și verde, atât durabilă, cât și justă. Cu toate acestea, în forma sa actuală strategia industrială oferă mai multe semne de întrebare decât răspunsuri spre soluționarea acestor provocări, și are nevoie de o abordare mai riguroasă pentru a funcționa drept piatra de temelie a tranziției industriei românești.

2024 este anul în care România trebuie să ridice privirea spre viitor

În 2024 România ar trebui să își regândească modelul de dezvoltare economică printr-o reorientare către tehnologiile viitorului și tranziția către o economie cu emisii reduse de gaze cu efect de seră. Pentru aceasta este necesară renunțarea la apatia clasei politice și la căutarea soluțiilor în trecut și reorientarea priorităților naționale către o economie bazată pe utilizarea surselor de energie curată, dezvoltarea infrastructurii energetice, atragerea lanțurilor valorice pentru tehnologiile verzi și susținerea capacității de cercetare și inovare pentru crearea de locuri de muncă bine plătite, care să poată răspunde provocărilor următoarelor decenii. Mihnea Cătuți, EPG Head of Research Mihnea is the Head of Research at EPG, coordinating the research strategy and activities within the organisation. His expertise includes EU climate and energy policy and the transition in South-East Europe.He is also an Associate in E3G’s Clean Economy Programme, contributing to the work on industrial decarbonisation. In the past, Mihnea was an associate researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), where he led the work on the future of hydrogen in the EU. He was also an associate lecturer in Public Policy at the University of York. Mihnea has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Bristol and a Masters in European Public Policy from the University of York and the Central European University. He is currently finalising his PhD at the University of York focusing on energy and climate governance in the EU. Contact: mihnea.catuti@enpg.ro

Reducerea emisiilor încorporate de carbon în clădirile din UE

Spre deosebire de emisiile operaționale de carbon, care țin de consumul de energie în clădire și care fac obiectul măsurilor de creștere a eficienței energetice, emisiile încorporate ale clădirii sunt cele care țin de materialele de construcții și de activitățile de construcție, precum și de tratamentul la finalul duratei de utilizare. De aceea, contribuția sectorului clădirilor – care, în UE, reprezintă mai bine de 40% din consumul total final de energie – la realizarea unei traiectorii de neutralitate climatică până în 2050 nu poate fi realizată fără controlul și reducerea emisiilor încorporate de carbon.