Artificial intelligence and climate tech start-up Carbon RE has partnered with the Materials Processing Institute, a leading UK materials and industrial decarbonization research organization, to adapt Carbon Re’s AI technology to the steelmaking process.

If successful, it is expected that steelmakers will be able to cut millions of pounds in energy costs and tens of thousands of tons of CO2 emissions per plant annually.

Carbon Re hopes to leverage the potential of deep learning and reinforcement learning using a digital twin of a steel mill’s manufacturing process to find its optimum operating parameters. It is hoped that by doing so, huge energy efficiencies will be unlocked.

“The Materials Processing Institute has extensive experience in industrial processes, and our collaboration will be invaluable to accelerating the development and commercialisation of our product for steel.”

Sherif Elsayed-Ali, CEO and co-founder, Carbon Re.

That such technology can be successful in the field of steelmaking is largely based on Carbon Re’s success in the cement industry where trials have exceeded expectations. The start-up’s studies have shown that energy intensity and carbon emissions from cement manufacturing can be reduced by up to 8% and 20% respectively, which translates into £2.1 million in cost savings and 140kt of CO2 in emissions reductions annually. “If similar efficiencies are achieved in steel plants, this will result in £4.3 million in cost savings and 60kt of CO2 emissions reduction per plant,” claims Carbon Re.

Carbon Re believes that recent advances in artificial intelligence – particularly in deep reinforcement learning – open the door for a step-change in addressing some of the problems associated with the steel manufacturing process in terms of its effect on the environment. It is estimated that steel production globally accounts for between 7-8 % of global emissions based on the burning of fossil fuels to transform iron ore into steel.

“The UK steel industry is facing a challenging time with escalating fuel prices and industrial decarbonisation targets. We are very excited to work with Carbon Re’s team and look forward to the results of applying cutting edge AI to our processes.”

Chris Oswin, digital technologies group manager, Materials Processing Institute.

In the UK, steel production accounts for 2% of total GHG emissions, but Carbon Re believes that its technology can be seen as a lifeline for steelmakers which are facing existential threats in the face of the current energy crisis and industrial decarbonization targets.

Carbon Re has received funding from UK Research and Innovation through the ISCF Transforming Foundation Industries – Investor Partnerships Programme to explore the feasibility of adapting its technology to improve energy efficiency in steel manufacturing.