LIBERTY France and SNCF Réseau today announced the approval for the deployment of Europe’s first GREENSTEEL rails on the French rail network.
This significant step demonstrates SNCF Réseau’s contribution to the establishment of a French “green rail” industrial sector to fully integrate the country’s railway infrastructure into a circular economy. The approval also marks the first step in achieving LIBERTY’s ambition for the recently-acquired LIBERTY Ascoval and LIBERTY Rail Hayange (previously France Rail Industry), which is to build a world-class GREENSTEEL rail and rail services business with international reach.
The key focus for LIBERTY’s acquisition was to connect Ascoval with the Hayange rail mill so that together they become the leader in the provision of GREENSTEEL rails. This circular economy concept would see LIBERTY Ascoval melting recycled scrap steel, including recovered scrap rail from Hayange’s customers, in its electric arc furnace to produce large rectangular GREENSTEEL “blooms” which could then be rolled into rails at LIBERTY Rail Hayange.
This innovation was achieved shortly after the acquisition of LIBERTY Ascoval when its new modified caster line cast its first square “billet”. The €17 million modification, which was delivered on time and to budget despite COVID-19 complications, meant the high-quality steelmaking equipment at Ascoval could be deployed to produce a new range of cross-sections, including blooms and billets, suitable for rolling into rails and other steel products in new markets. Due to these new products and a range of new customers, Ascoval is now running at higher capacity, with the strong prospect of adding more jobs in early 2021 as the plant expands its production.
The rail production specialists at Hayange worked closely with those from SNCF Réseau to manufacture a range of GREENSTEEL rails which will be used across the French railway network. This new production process reduces CO2 emissions by 90% with the traditional processes used in Europe for the production of rail steels. This environmental performance is mainly made possible by the use of the electric arc process, rather than the use of traditional blast furnaces. The manufacturing method of GREENSTEEL rails emits 180 kg of CO2 per tonne of steel compared to 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel using conventional blast furnaces. The goal is to make the rails completely carbon neutral by 2030, in line with the GFG Alliance’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
SNCF Réseau has carried out a comprehensive range of homologation tests on this new range of rails as well as a full audit of the LIBERTY Ascoval site. Once that homologation testing and audit work was completed, SNCF Réseau approved the use of the new GREENSTEEL rails across its French network. LIBERTY now expects to start developing a sustainable GREENSTEEL rail market, initially in France and then more widely across Europe, as rail operators make the transition to carbon neutral networks.