Perspectives for digitising energy-intensive industries – findings from the European iron and steel industry

Panel: 2. Sustainable production towards a circular economy

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Marlene Arens, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Germany
Christoph Neef, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Germany
Bernd Beckert, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Germany
Simon Hirzel, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, Germany

Abstract

Industry has to contribute substantially to the low-carbon transformation if carbon dioxide reduction targets of 80 to 95% are to be met. Energy-intensive industries like the steel industry play a major role in this transformation since energy-intensive industries account for about 75% of total industrial carbon dioxide emissions (e.g. IEA, Energy Technology Transitions for Industry, 2009). Digitalisation or “industry 4.0” might substantially affect the way the steel industry operates. Digitalisation could strongly affect production processes, it might lead to fundamental changes in the use of labour and it might turn upside down the structure of entire companies. Visions for factories of the future include concepts such as “one site - one tablet - one worker”, “zero-waste-production” and “complete recycling”. Such major changes are likely to affect energy efficiency, as well.

Studies on the current state and future implications of digitalisation in the steel industry are scarce. This contribution reviews recent developments in the digitalisation of the European steel industry. After an introduction into the concepts of digitalisation, it gives an overview on implemented pilot applications in the European steel industry. Based on an extended literature review and expert interviews, it also shows public funding support for digitizing industry and fields of current research and development activities, e.g. predictive maintenance, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. For key steel producing companies, profiles on digitalisation activities are given. The contribution concludes with a qualitative impact assessment on the current state and future perspectives of digitalisation in the European steel industry, including its impact on energy efficiency.

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