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The world’s most energy-efficient aluminium production technology

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The world’s most energy-efficient aluminium production technology

The pilot plant has the most climate and energy-efficient aluminium production technology in the world. Photo: Hydro/Multiconsult

Hydro's pilot plant in Karmøy, Norway, began operations in January 2018 with the most climate and energy-efficient aluminium production technology in the world. Here's how we do it.

The biggest challenge in aluminium production has always been to achieve stability and control in the electrolytic bath where production takes place. Large amounts of electricity are passed through an electrode in the bath to create the chemical reaction that creates aluminium.

When the electricity is then led out of the cell, powerful magnetic forces are created that draw the metal and the electrolytic bath horizontally and create sideways movements.

 What makes the technology in the pilot cells innovative and unique is that we lead the current through new circuits and at the same time gain better control of the magnetism.

We harness the forces and stabilize the bath. Greater stability means that we can reduce the electric voltage, thereby saving energy and avoiding anode effect that creates unnecessary emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2.

 

Illustration of how the Karmøy Technology Pilot will look like

Ground-breaking: Twelve of the 60 cells will make further attempts to see just how low energy consumption can be achieved in aluminium production. Illustration: Hydro/Multiconsult

 

 Using this technology, energy consumption has decreased to 12.3 kWh. This is well below the world average of 14.1 kWh and Hydro’s own average of 13.8 kWh.

 

We are also testing another variant of the new technology, which we hope will reduce energy consumption even further to 11.5 kWh per kilo of aluminium.

This will put Hydro in first place internationally. No one has managed to produce aluminium with such low energy consumption and high productivity as Hydro is now planning to do.

Compared with the technology used in our modern plants in Sunndal, Norway, and in Qatar, the new electrolytic cells are 50 percent larger and will produce 50 percent more metal per cell, using less energy per kilo aluminium produced.

Unique cells: The casthouse will house 60 cells in total. Illustration: Hydro/Multiconsult

Unique cells: The casthouse has 60 cells in total. Illustration: Hydro/Multiconsult

What will this mean for the environment?

By using hydropower instead of coal, the pilot plant in Karmøy also saves the global environment from one million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Direct CO2 emissions with the new technology in the pilot will be 0.8 kg lower per kilo of aluminium than the world average. Compared to world average CO2 emissions, the pilot plant in Karmøy will produce 60 000 fewer tonnes a year.

If the rest of the world produced aluminium with the technology Hydro is now rolling out, the energy savings would equate to almost the entire Norwegian annual hydropower production.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg was at Hydro Karmøy when the technology pilot was announced. This is how she summarized the importance of this new technology:

Prime Minister Erna Solberg (left) was at Hydro Karmøy when the technology pilot was announced. Pictured right is our CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg. Photo: Hydro

Prime Minister Erna Solberg (left) was at Hydro Karmøy when the technology pilot was announced. Pictured right is our CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg. Photo: Hydro

“This is the biggest investment in Norwegian mainland industry in over 10 years, but the most important in many decades. Hydro built up Norway a hundred years ago. Now you are leading the way in the green shift.”

See the technology yourself in the video below.

Hydro Karmøy: This is what Hydro Karmøy will look like once the pilot is completed in 2017. Illustration: Hydro/Multiconsult

Hydro Karmøy: This is how Hydro Karmøy appears, now that the pilot plant is operating. Illustration: Hydro/Multiconsult

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