• UK government to help fund Port Talbot steelworks conversion to electric arc furnaces

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The UK government is to give the Port Talbot steelworks, Britain’s largest, up to £500 million (€579 million/US$619 million) to help it convert to using electric arc furnaces from the current blast furnaces, thus lowering its greenhouse gas emissions footprint.

Tata Steel, the owner of the works, will add £700 million of its own funding to the conversion, which is expected to take around three years after regulatory and planning approvals are obtained. It appears likely that as many as 3,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the conversion, however, as the arc furnaces are less labour intensive.

Tata Steel employs around 8000 people in the UK, and the UK government has stated that its funding “has the potential to safeguard over 5,000 jobs across the UK”. Such steep job losses would be counter to the viewpoint that decarbonisation will involve a general increase in employment – but of course a single example does not disprove that viewpoint. It is estimated that the conversion would reduce total UK greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7%, while reducing the Port Talbot steelworks’ emissions by 85%. The government’s willingness to help fund the conversion is surely partly strategic (in terms of security of supply) as well as a bid to reduce unemployment, although imports of some types of steel, which arc furnaces cannot make, will increase.

There shall be a ‘transition plan’ in place to help those who lose their jobs to retrain.