'One of the big ones' with Bridgette Carter 06 April 2021
Last month Energy Efficiency Council CEO Luke Menzel sat down with Bridgette Carter, Manager, Energy Sourcing & Utilisation at BlueScope and Deputy Chair of the Energy Users Association of Australia, to record episode 39 of the Energy Efficiency Council’s podcast, First Fuel.
Luke and Bridgette discussed the crucial role energy plays in BlueScope’s steel production, the company’s long history of proactive energy management, and the role of industry in the transition to a net zero economy. Below is an edited excerpt from their conversation.
To hear to the entire discussion, listen here, or search for First Fuel wherever you listen to your podcasts.
[Luke] Can you kick us off by telling us a bit about BlueScope and the role that energy plays in the business?
[Bridgette] BlueScope is Australia's largest steelmaking company. We have over 100 facilities in 17 countries around the world, and we employ around 14,000 people worldwide. Roughly 6,000 of those are in Australia, producing about 3 million tonnes of steel per annum. We're also quite energy intensive, using around 1,200 gigawatt hours of electricity and four petajoules of natural gas per annum.
[Luke] So where are you on the league table of largest energy users in Australia?
[Bridgette] Oh, we’re up the top there [laughter], one of the big ones.
[Luke] So energy is obviously very central to the business, primarily electricity use?
[Bridgette] Yes. Luckily for us, our process actually creates quite a lot of process gas that we can recycle. So, our natural gas purchases are just a small portion of our overall gas usage.
[Luke] BlueScope has been proactive on energy issues, particularly as an early adopter of energy efficiency. More recently you’ve been very active in the market for renewable power purchase agreements. Is it fair to say that the initial engagement around energy was driven by cost?
[Bridgette] Yes, absolutely. Energy markets have gone through a rapid state of transition. And, you know, the cost skyrocketed back in 2016-17 when I took over my current role.
[Luke] Good timing [laughter].
[Bridgette] Yeah, it was like my former boss hit a big red button on his way out! We had enjoyed what was a relative advantage in Australia with low energy costs for quite some time. And that was very important to our competitiveness, being in a commodity market that's global.
So it was absolutely one of the drivers for why we engaged so much in the energy policy space. And we're very engaged in energy efficiency, productivity and what we could do as a business to reduce our energy.
Energy productivity projects are embedded within our normal business processes. So, we've got really great tools that people can log all of their projects that they do. And we track the projects and the impact that they have on the business. We've also got rigorous environmental systems where we have targets on energy projects as a focus as well.
[Luke] What are some of the big areas where BlueScope has found itself able to save big licks of energy?
[Bridgette] I think it's about making really good use of what we've got, and also challenging the status quo. As I mentioned, we generate process gas from our processes, coke ovens and blast furnace gas, and some of our biggest projects and biggest wins have been around trying to utilise as much of that gas as possible.
We had a project a few years ago where we re-commissioned a steam alternator that actually soaked up a lot of that gas. So we're able to use something that was a waste process gas and generate electricity from that rather than drawing additional electricity from the grid. That was a really great win for us. The generator itself was about 12 megawatts in capacity and we really run that as hard as we can. It's got benefits for reducing emissions and also for reducing our reliance on the grid as well.
[Luke] Obviously energy is always important but carbon and climate issues are coming into more focus over the last number of years. Can you unpack how BlueScope is approaching that for us?
[Bridgette] It's a topic felt broadly across the economy. We're transitioning to a low emissions economy, there's no doubt about that, and we'd be crazy not to be thinking about it. It's part of the way we do business. We really have a focus on the communities that we operate in. They’re our homes and we take our social license very seriously.
I think we've made some quite strong commitments in this area, one of those being the appointment of a chief executive of climate change. She will run a dedicated corporate climate change function to help the business address the challenges.
We're also working really heavily on the next phase of our targets as well. We've already got a 1% year on year emissions reduction target that we've had in place for a few years now and we've made that commitment out to 2030. But we're looking beyond that now. What are our longer-term aspirations and targets? And what's the strategy that's going to get us there? That new strategy will be released later this year. So lots of work going on!
Connect with Bridgett on LinkedIn.
This article was originally published in the April edition of Efficiency Insight.