India, world’s second-largest steel producer, struggles with channelising by-products

World’s second-largest steel producer India has set itself a target of doubling its output in the next decade, but it finds itself in a bind over a related issue as it advances towards the goal — what to do with the copious quantities of byproducts that it spews out.

Though India overtook Japan as the second-largest producer of the finished metal a couple of years ago, it lags behind other major developers in conversion of the byproduct called slag into useful products. Each tonne of steel that is manufactured generates about half a tonne of the byproduct.

Worldwide, around 80% of the slag that is produced through steel-making is re-utilised in things like cement and bricks, while around 100% of the slag produced through manufacture of iron is recycled.

“Everything can be a resource and can be utilized. Whatever is being generated has to be put to use,” says Dr Mukesh Kumar, director at the Steel Research & Technology Mission of India.

“Through this, Rs 100-150 crores additional revenues can be generated,” he added.

World over, geopolymer cements can utilise 90%-95% of flyash in making superior quality materials of the binding product, he noted.

Similarly, the gases that are emitted along with steel manufacturecan be used for making bio-smoke,a product that is being favoured for many fertilizers including urea.

V.R.Sharma, co-chair of the steel committee of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) said that around 90 million tons of slag are likely to be availably annually in India in the near future excluding the byproducts from electric arc furnaces.

Poor utilisation

He said the byproducts utilisation in cement — a main user segment globally  — is hardly 17% and compares poorly to developed economies like Germany which uses the waste material in a big way.

A primary reason for that the government levies a goods and services tax (GST) of 28% on cement and urged the government to halve the tax level.

Aggarwal said that his company Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) has utilized the byproducts in production of a type of concrete called light weight aggregate as well as for production of bricks.

Jayant Acharya, director at JSW Ltd, said his company has been able to achieve solid waste utilization of 90% and was aiming to achieve 100% utilization.

He urged the government to support research in development of waste products that can be tailored to meet the needs of consumers.

“With everyone’s concerted effort we will be able to fund a solution to all the slag we create,” said Rasika Chaubey, steel secretary in the government.

She added that reducing carbon emission for the steel indistry will be one of the greatest challenges and the only practical way to do it will be to capture and utilize them in different products.

.”We need to have lot of reliable collaboration in this. Byproducts generated are valuable and must be used as a natural resource,” she added.

V.K. Saraswat, member of Niti Aayog, said that a culture of research and development needs to be promoted for better utilization of the steel byproducts.

He said Indian steel companies are not utilising technologies for extracting metals and like iron, zinc, nickel and chromium like in other nations.

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at

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