Hours after Liberty Steel confirmed it was putting its Stocksbridge plant near Sheffield up for sale, a report today said low-carbon hydrogen-based steel production is gearing up in many European countries - but plans have not got off the ground in the UK.
The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said some 23 hydrogen steel projects are either planned or under way across Europe, including plans to produce hundreds of thousands of tonnes of green steel by as early as next year.
It comes only weeks after a leading thinktank said Yorkshire was well placed to become a UK leader in green steel.
But while a £250m clean steel fund was launched in 2019 to decarbonise the sector, under current plans the money will not be available until 2023.
Decarbonising northern steel would cost an average of £267m a year by 2050 but would “help lay the foundations for a stronger, low-carbon and productive industry,” said the ECIU report.
Current levels of ambition in the UK are not enough to ensure the industry catches up in the race to clean up steel production, it warned. M
More than a third of UK steel jobs are in the North including South Yorkshire and the Humber, meaning some 12,000 jobs around the region and more than 20,000 in the supply chain could be safeguarded if action is taken, although the collapse of Greensill Capital, which was Liberty Steel’s main financial backer, earlier this year has put jobs in Rotherham, Stocksbridge and Scunthorpe at risk.
The report comes hours after Liberty Steel Group announced it has started a formal sale process for its plant at Stocksbridge and its site in Brinsworth near Rotherham, which together employ nearly 900 people, saying it does not fit with its environmental plans. By selling, Liberty hopes it can focus on scaling up its other plant in Rotherham to make two million tonnes of green steel.
But Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates has stepped in to urge Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to help find a suitable buyer for the plant.
Mr Kwarteng is also set to be questioned today for parliamentary inquiry into Liberty Steel and the future of the industry.
He is likely to be asked about the Government’s assessment of Liberty Steel and any steps it may take to intervene.
Earlier this year, thinktank IPPR North said Yorkshire’s steel industry could achieve carbon net zero status by 2035. IPPR North’s Jonathan Webb said: “There is no reason for green steel to come at the expense of a single job - in fact, decarbonising the North’s steel industry could help to level up the North’s economy by becoming a world leading, job generating, planet protecting industry.”