Innovative steel
for a better engineered future

Production based entirely on scrap

Published 2019-04-18

Steel is a multifaceted material and something most people encounter in their everyday lives, in everything from consumer products like bicycles and cars to larger and more complex infrastructure applications such as bridges and buildings. Since steel is used in such extensive quantities, the production of sustainable steel products is an important part of the future development of society, both environmentally and in terms of quality.

Steel is a material that can be recycled over and over again without losing its properties, unlike other materials that society depends on like newspapers and cardboard . Ovako’s steel production recycles over 800,000 metric tons of steel scrap every year. This makes us to one of the largest recycler of steel scrap in the Nordic countries and an important player in the circular economy, as scrap becomes steel which again becomes scrap. In this way, our customers also become part of the circular economy.

Steel scrap as the most important raw material

With scrap-based steel production, we make a distinction between internal scrap, meaning scrap from our own manufacturing, which is used directly at Ovako, and scrap that we buy in. Bought-in scrap is divided into two categories: process scrap and post-consumption scrap. The waste left over when our customers process steel into end products is called process scrap, and the steel scrap from, for example, scrapped cars, ships, white goods and packaging is called post-consumption scrap.

The residual products left over when our customers process the steel are picked up by a recycling company that is able to clean it and remove unwanted material. Further treatment can then be done to convert the residual product into briquettes for easier handling and increased safety when melting.

In the scrap-based production process, the scrap is melted in an electric arc furnace. The three electrodes of the arc furnace generate up to 30,000˚C during the melting process and efficiently melt down the scrap into steel. Following the melting, the steel proceeds to the casting process and is subsequently treated.

Using sustainable steel

In many cases, Ovako’s steel also contributes to particularly great environmental benefits when the products are put to use. Even before use, steel from Ovako is a more environmental product than can otherwise be found. Ovako’s hot-rolled steel products are environmentally certified and have a carbon footprint that is 80% lower than the world average. The difference is particularly great when compared with ore-based manufacturing in a blast furnace. This means that Ovako’s type of scrap-based steel production, as well as responsible supplier selection, are particularly important for the environment.

Inclusions and defects are also minimized during the manufacturing process, which results in highly clean steel with improved fatigue strength compared to conventional steel. This enables Ovako’s customers to develop advanced solutions where the components can be made lighter and stronger, and with longer life. Consequently, Ovako offers opportunities for its customers to in turn create better product solutions with less environmental impact.

The journey of scrap back to Ovako

When the scrap has been processed, it returns to Ovako’s production facilities by rail. Once at Ovako, the scrap is sorted into different alloy classes. It is only after careful sorting that the scrap proceeds in the production process. Sorting the scrap reduces the use of alloy metals. The scrap is then melted down into new steel – and the steel cycle is closed.

Scrap-based steel production allows us to create a more sustainable society and conserve scrap that would otherwise have been thrown away. We are proud to contribute to the circular economy and to help our customers produce more environmentally friendly products that, in turn, end up in the hands of society.