China Targets Steel Industry to Reduce Air Pollution

09 May 2019

China has shifted its focus in the battle for clean air to the steel industry after success with targeting coal-powered plants with similar measures.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment and four other ministries released a joint directive intended to ensure steel mills in the country’s most polluted regions meet “ultra-low” emission standards by 2025. The announcement cited a leading environmental scientist’s estimate that the measure could reduce particulate emissions in areas around Beijing and the Yangtze River Delta by 20%, and lower the concentration of PM2.5, the deadliest small particles, by as much as 9%.

China is the world’s top steel producer. Last year its crude steel production reached 928.3 million tonnes, accounting for almost half of the world’s total production. Production is highly concentrated in the northern Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, causing severe pollution in this region.

The biggest sources of emissions were coal-fired power plants and the steel sector, said Ma Jun, Director of a Beijing-based NGO, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. But since 2014, existing power plants in China have been given tougher emission standards, while newly constructed power plants have had to meet the new standards since 2012.

According to the latest plan, steel plants much comply with ultra-low emission standards, which means that sinter plants will have to reduce emissions of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide to 10, 35, and 50 milligrams per cubic metre respectively, as opposed to the current standards of 50, 200 and 300 mg/m3.

The goal is for 60% of steel mills in key regions to have completed the transformation by 2020, and 80% of steel plants in the country to complete it by 2025. Plants that complete the upgrades will receive more support on taxes, finance, and environmental protection policies.