While steelmaking is a process that inherently requires large quantities of energy, it is in everyone's interest to conserve this energy wherever possible. Ever since the oil crises of the seventies, NKK has sought out ways to cut its energy consumption. These efforts have produced substantial reductions in energy requirements, reductions that contribute to addressing the issues of global warming.
For NKK, energy conservation is both an environmental concern and a business concern. Its operations depend on stable sources of inexpensive energy, and to ensure that these are available, NKK has been steadily converting its facilities to reduce its dependency on petroleum while simultaneously developing streamlined, continuous production processes so that less energy is required. Ever since the Second Oil Crisis, NKK has invested heavily in large waste-heat recovery facilities, and as a result of these efforts has reduced its energy consumption per ton of crude steel by approximately 20% compared to that in 1973.
The Japanese steel industry has a goal of cutting a further 10% off its 1990 production process energy consumption by 2010. It has a further goal of shaving an additional 1.5% off energy consumption by utilizing waste plastics to feed blast furnaces, provided that adequate collection systems can be put in place.
Between 1990 and 1995, the steel industry achieved a 5.9% energy reduction. NKK therefore has a goal of shaving 5.6% off its 1995 energy consumption by 2010. To do this, NKK will be expanding use of regenerative burner reheating systems and continuous production processes. In addition to these existing technologies, NKK is also developing new technologies for the next generation of energy-efficient steelmaking processes.
NKK boasts some of the most advanced recycling technology in Japan thanks to its long track record in conservation programs at steelworks and in designing environmental plant systems. To spearhead the utilization of these technologies in recycling projects and oversee the efforts of group members, NKK established NK Kankyo Corporation in April 1996. The following October, NKK began Japan's first program to employ waste plastics as blast furnace feed which it implemented at the Keihin Works.
In October 1997, NKK established a project team to commercialize its recycling business, and in November, reached a basic agreement with Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Trienekens GmbH of Germany to collaborate on the recycling of waste home appliances and office equipment.
During the COP3 global climate change conference in Kyoto in December 1997, the Japanese steel industry committed to using one million tons of plastics a year in place of coke by 2010 in order to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. NKK, as a pioneer in the use of waste plastics as blast furnace feed, has taken the lead in expanding this business. NKK is building facilities to recycle municipal waste plastics for blast furnace use at both its Keihin and Fukuyama Works. These facilities are compliant with Japan's "Container and Packaging Recycling Law." By the first half of fiscal 2000, these facilities, in combination with existing industrial waste treatment systems, will probably be producing about 100,000 tons a year of plastics blast furnace feed.