North American steel is greener than Chinese steel, says AISI

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of Chinese steel are substantially greater than emissions from production of comparable steel in North America, according to a series of reports released by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

Two peer-reviewed reports (North America and China) compare hot-dip galvanised (HDG) steel coils produced in North America, primarily used in the construction and automotive sectors, to the same product produced in China and shipped to the North American market. The study found that hot-dip galvanised coil sourced from China results in nearly 50% higher GHG emissions.

“In the sustainable design of steel-framed buildings, one of the most important decisions an owner or architect can make regarding environmental impact is to ensure the building’s steel is produced in North America,” said Mark Thimons, vice president of sustainability for SMDI.

Thimons cited an example from another SMDI study involving the design of a four-story cold-formed steel office building in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which showed that the building (core and shell only) includes about 100 tons of HDG for the structural framing, floor deck and roof deck. If steel from China is used for this building instead of North American-produced steel, the GHG emissions associated with the production of the steel used would increase by more than 100 tons (COequivalent). For this single four-storey structure, the difference is equivalent to the GHG emissions from consuming over 10,000 gallons of gasoline.

The study complements previously-released information from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) documenting that hot-rolled structural sections produced in China result in three times the GHG emissions compared to the same product produced in North America.