- ArcelorMittal’s steel production plant in Gijón, Asturias, considered one of the most polluting industrial facilities in Spain, aims to reduce its emissions by discontinuing the operation of one of its sinter plants and one of its blast furnaces, facilities with significant environmental impact.
- Some of the facilities that will facilitate progress towards the decarbonization process already have the environmental authorization granted by the Government of Asturias, which complies with the requirements of European regulations.
- It is urgent to decarbonize the Gijón plant as soon as possible and reduce its pollutant emissions to improve the city’s air quality.
June 6, 2023 – In 2021, ArcelorMittal announced its commitment to decarbonize its steel production plant in Gijón and transform it into the world’s first carbon-neutral facility by 2025. In the process of decarbonizing the steel industry in Asturias, the Government of Asturias plays an essential role by granting the necessary environmental authorizations to the company for the development of facilities that will enable these objectives. Proper implementation of decarbonization measures is crucial as it will significantly contribute to reducing pollution in Gijón.
To achieve the decarbonization of the plant, which currently relies on coal, it is necessary to install a hybrid electric arc furnace powered by renewable electricity and a new direct iron ore reduction plant that operates with green hydrogen. So far, the authorities have only granted environmental authorization for the installation of the hybrid electric arc furnace.
The bodies responsible for issuing environmental authorizations are obligated to set emission limit values (ELVs) for specific types of pollutants. “Due to their environmental impacts and harm to human health, it is essential to ensure that the ELVs included in the permits for these facilities align with the values established in the European BREF regulations, a subject on which the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA) has been working for years,” stated Massimiliano Patierno, an environmental engineer at IIDMA.
During the public participation phase in April 2022, as part of the authorization process for the hybrid electric arc furnace at the Gijón plant, IIDMA found that the ELVs requested by ArcelorMittal for two pollutants (dioxins and furans) were ten times higher than allowed by the European BREF regulations for steel production. However, after the definitive authorization was approved, IIDMA verified that the ELVs set by the administration complied with the aforementioned regulations.
In this regard, the actions taken by the Government of Asturias serve as a good example of the significant role of regional administrations in contributing to pollution reduction. “It is crucial to have proper actions from different levels of administration to ensure compliance with the current European regulations regarding industrial emissions. Regarding the decarbonization of the steel sector, it is essential not only for companies to genuinely commit to decarbonizing their activities, but also for the administration to ensure that the company fulfills its decarbonization commitments without delays or unjustified changes,” explained Carlota Ruiz-Bautista, a lawyer at IIDMA.
Furthermore, the correct implementation of the decarbonization measures planned by ArcelorMittal for its Gijón plant will contribute significantly to reducing pollution. Without implementing these measures, achieving rapid and tangible improvements in the city’s poor air quality conditions will be challenging.
Throughout 2022, an analysis of air quality data conducted by IIDMA revealed that Gijón continues to face severe particle pollution issues, as different stations did not meet the values set by the European directive on air quality. Therefore, “to achieve an improvement in the city’s air quality, more decisive actions are necessary from the administration, such as implementing lower thresholds for the activation of action protocols during episodes of air pollution, as well as more drastic measures for traffic and the industrial sector in the area during protocol activation,” explained Massimiliano Patierno.