The past two years have certainly proved to be a challenge for practically every industry, as lockdowns and social distancing have forced us to constantly rework in our minds what is the “new normal.” However, as vaccination rates continue to rise and recovery plans are implemented in cities, states and countries across the globe, confidence levels are similarly seeing an uptick.
If this pandemic has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected, but as it currently stands it appears that 2022 will see a return to more normal conditions as we learn to live and work with the COVID-19 virus. As the building block to modern society, the steel industry will inevitably play a large role in shaping the post-pandemic future, making the move towards a more sustainable industry paramount.
According to Vik Bansal, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at the integrated Electric Arc Furnace-based steel manufacturing and recycling company InfraBuild, the shifts and trends that have been occurring both in Australia and across the world leave plenty of room for positivity. With a career of over 30 years focused on driving sustainable growth across a number of industries, Bansal has the ability to provide unique insight as to what the year will hold for steel, and below are some of his top ideas.
Decarbonization of the industry
The World Steel Association’s release of a public policy paper relating to climate change and the production of iron and steel is just one example of the pandemic’s accelerating effect on decarbonization initiatives within the steel industry.
“The decarbonization journey is one we have been on for some time at InfraBuild,” said Bansal. Indeed, the company uses electric arc furnaces, in which scrap steel is recycled rather than the raw ore processing involved in blast furnace steelmaking, to make and manufacture new steel. However, according to Bansal the company is also looking at the role of renewable energy to further reduce its carbon footprint and contribute to an overall lower carbon steel.
“From where we stand today, an economic renewable energy policy and availability stands between us and an almost decarbonised steel,” said Bansal.
Bansal predicts that within the industry digitization and carbon capture technology combined with process and manufacturing optimization will have the ability to minimize waste, energy and emissions even further while simultaneously increasing efficiency and production.
At the same time, 2022 will also see a continuation of the increased demands and expectations for sustainability to be seen in action as much as it is spoken in words. Customers, governments, investors and communities alike will continue to hold businesses accountable, looking for specific and actionable plans as to how the steel industry will decarbonize.
Recovering and rebuilding in Australia
Although 2021 saw Delta- and Omicron-strain outbreaks across eastern-Australian states, state-based grants such as the HomeBuilder initiatives have helped maintain residential construction momentum. Additionally, measures in the 2021-22 Budget giving support to first-time home buyers and single parents with dependents, combined with housing price growth and low interest rates, means that an elevated level of construction and renovation activity can be expected in the short-term.
“As we emerge further from the effects of the pandemic and learn to live with the COVID-19 virus, and international travel resumes and stabilizes over the coming years, I would suggest we will see a gradual return to pre-pandemic levels of migration, tourists and international students to Australia over the next decade,” said Bansal.
“With that, we will see a return in demand of higher-density residential and apartment construction.”
The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan released in September of last year laid out a roadmap for infrastructure developments that will aid in creating a better quality of life across the country, while also providing measures to help accelerate the transition to a circular economy. While largely overlooked in past conversations about a circular economy, Bansal believes that the use of scrap steel through electric arc furnace manufacturing will move to the forefront of the conversation for the country in 2022.
Policymaking and geopolitical influence
China is the world’s biggest consumer and producer of steel, giving them a heavy hand in the global steel industry as a whole. With a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060 made last year, the country will certainly continue to influence the landscape of steel and its move towards decarbonization.
“Currently, we are seeing the Chinese Government directive to curb domestic steel production contributing to global price increases, with some commentary that this could extend through to March – post the Beijing Winter Olympics,” said Bansal.
Bansal predicts that as China shifts from coal-based manufacturing and production processes to electric arc furnaces, it could potentially increase competition to source scrap steel.
“As countries are adjusting government policy settings and investment to ensure enhanced sovereign domestic manufacturing capability – a lesson sorely learnt during the pandemic – it will be fascinating to see the position taken by governments in areas such as scrap metal export tariffs, carbon tariffs, and incentives for investment in green manufacturing technologies,” said Bansal.
InfraBuild is Australia’s leading integrated steel manufacturing, distribution and recycling business. It is the largest integrated manufacturer and supplier of steel long products and solutions, and one of the largest metals recycling businesses in the country. It is the only fully vertically integrated steel manufacturer in the country, producing low-carbon steel and manufactured products, utilizing recycled scrap metal and electric arc furnaces to reduce carbon emissions by a third compared to traditional steelmaking methods. InfraBuild has committed to using new and emerging technologies and manufacturing princesses to further reduce its carbon footprint and make sustainable steel.
About Vik Bansal
Vik Bansal is a global business executive with over three decades worth of experience in c-suite and senior leadership roles. Since July of 2021 he has been the managing director and chief executive officer at InfraBuild, Australia’s leading integrated steel manufacturing, distribution and recycling business.
Mr. Bansal has lived and worked in four continents, building a reputation across the globe as a leader who seeks to find sustainable solutions in every industry while simultaneously creating value for all stakeholders. Prior to InfraBuild he spent six years as group chief executive officer and managing director of Cleanaway, Australia’s largest publicly listed waste management company. In that time, he oversaw the organization overcome a significant debt burden, rise over 120 places on the ASX market index, and increase its market capitalization by a multiple of five.
Additionally, Mr. Bansal has held numerous executive and non-executive director roles for commercial, industrial and non-profit boards, including the National Waste & Recycling Industry Council, Waste Management & Resource Recovery Association of Australia and Disability Services Australia. He is also the non-executive chairman of the clean energy company LGI Ltd.
Mr. Bansal has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra and a post-graduate diploma in computer systems engineering from Swinburne University of Technology. He also holds a master of business administration from Deakin University, completed the advanced management program from INSEAD as well as a master of laws in enterprise governance from Bond University.