Clean energy for the UAE’s growing industryFebruary 23, 2021
Saeed Ghumran Al Remeithi, CEO of Emirates Steel, talks to The Energy Year about the company’s role in the UAE’s economic diversification and the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant and how it is achieving energy cost reduction in the tightened market of the Covid-19 era. Emirates Steel is an integrated steel plant in the Middle East that produces rebar, wire rod and heavy sections and plans to expand its products portfolio to include steel flat products.
How has Emirates Steel navigated the Covid-19 pandemic?
Although the pandemic had negatively affected people and businesses in many ways, Emirates Steel took careful measures and demonstrated its resilience and agility through Covid-19 pandemic. Our main focus was on how to keep our employees safe while sustaining operations.
We have been very successful in keeping our employees safe. The cases among our workforce peaked in May 2020 at around 200 overall. During the last quarter of 2020, we witnessed almost zero cases. We managed to reduce the spread of Covid-19 infections among our employees by restricting work areas, having people work remotely, helping employees with accommodation and monthly testing. So, on the human side, we were very successful.
The market, on the other hand, was greatly impacted, especially in the second quarter. However, our customer relationships were resilient and, despite the overall market dropping in volume, our share increased in the markets we targeted. The situation improved in the second half of the year. I do not think that activity will soon go back to 2019 levels, but things gradually improve.
What is Emirates Steel’s contribution to the nation’s economic diversification programme?
We realise that the industrial sector is the second major contributor to UAE’s GDP after oil and gas. Establishing its position on the global economics map, the industrial sector stands out as the most important growth factor of the UAE’s and Abu Dhabi’s economy in the future. And manufacturing industries accounted for 8.4% of the UAE’s GDP, and 6.7% of Abu Dhabi’s GDP in 2019. This is supported by the government’s programmes designed to support the manufacturing sector such as Ghadan 21, announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Chairman of the Executive Council, at the end of 2018.
Emirates Steel is one of the main contributors to Abu Dhabi’s and the UAE’s industrialisation, economic diversification plans and non-oil GDP. The national steel production capacity grew to around 6.3 million tonnes in 2019, up from 5.2 million tonnes in 2018.
In addition, our continuous push towards Emiratisation and the overall ICV [In-Country Value] programme bore fruit in recent years and we are successfully transferring the knowledge and know-how of steelmaking to UAE nationals and the country as a whole.
When Emirates Steel was first established, we were solely supporting the country’s infrastructure sector by acting as a main producer of steel. We are now the backbone of the downstream destinations of this steel. Currently, we are working closely with the government towards diversifying our products to support small and medium-sized local companies.
Emirates Steel was chosen to provide steel bars and over 160,000 tonnes of material supplies to the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant. How did you approach this project?
This project is close to my heart. H.E. Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), approached me in the early stages of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program to support the Barakah plant as an infrastructure project of national significance. We made it our priority to meet the high quality standards of the global nuclear energy industry and deliver nuclear-grade (Q-class) steel products.
We are the fourth steel manufacturer worldwide and the first in the GCC region to obtain the Quality System Certificate for Nuclear Products (Q Class) from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Over two years, we worked hard to ensure the conformity of our products to global nuclear quality standards and obtain the necessary certifications to become a key supplier to ENEC and the Barakah project. It was a challenging and long process, but we are proud to be supporting the development of the UAE’s clean energy sector.
In August 2020, you signed an agreement for sourcing more than 1 million tonnes of scrap from local sources. Tell us about the lifecycle of scrap metal in Emirates Steel.
Currently, scrap accounts for 30% of the raw material in the company’s Steel Making Plant 1. Given the surge in the price of iron ore today, the company aims to increase its usage of scrap as feedstock for its other steelmaking plants as well through purchasing more than 1 million tonnes of local scrap material from UAE-based scrap traders on an annual basis.
While fostering a sustainable circular economy and cost-efficient business, utilising scrap for steel production also helps to reduce CO2 emissions, mining waste and water consumption.
As a member of the worldsteel Climate Action programme, Emirates Steel has taken proactive efforts and committed considerable resources to supporting the UAE’s scrap dealers and traders.
What steps have you taken in recent years to promote innovation across the company’s divisions?
Our employees are encouraged to focus on finding innovative solutions that can improve the company’s processes at our organisation. In this regard, we have implemented the ThinkSmart scheme, which offers financial rewards for truly innovative ideas that benefit the operation of our business. We have published more than 15 research articles in top journals such as IEEE, and out of these scientific articles, three patents were granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office – the latest being for a “Dynamic Direct Power Control Method and System for a Grid Connected Converter,” a result of our academic partnership with Khalifa University.
Moreover, we have obtained the ISO 56002:2019 Innovation Management certification, as the first industrial company in the UAE to receive this certificate.
- From the field
- From the field