Carbon free aluminium smelting a step closer

Carbon free aluminium smelting for products ranging from smart phones to cars and drink cans is a step closer with ELYSIS successfully producing aluminium without any direct greenhouse emissions at its Industrial Research and Development Center in Saguenay (QC), Canada.

The production of aluminium at the ELYSIS Industrial Research and Development Center marks the achievement of a significant milestone, using a full industrial design at a size comparable to small smelting cells operating in the industry today.

Commercial demonstration in 2023

Work is now focused on accelerating the scale-up of the ELYSIS technology towards the demonstration of even larger commercial-size cells in 2023.  

Construction of these prototype cells is now well underway at the end of an existing potline at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter. 

The smelting cells will operate on an electrical current of 450 kA, which is the commercial scale for many large, modern aluminium smelters. The industrial cells are designed to be used as a ‘drop-in’ replacement to retrofit existing smelters or build new ones and can be scalable to sizes as needed.

With the current development pathway, ELYSIS aims to have its technology available for installation from 2024 and the production of larger volumes of carbon-free aluminum approximately two years later.

Scaling up supply chain in 2022

ELYSIS is beginning detailed planning to scale-up the supply chain for the technology’s upcoming commercialisation. In 2022, ELYSIS will commence the design and engineering for a facility that can produce the breakthrough, proprietary materials fundamental to its inert anode, zero-carbon smelting process.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto launched the ELYSIS joint venture in 2018. The inert anode technology now being scaled-up by ELYSIS builds on a process first developed at the Alcoa Technical Center outside of Pittsburgh. 

The ELYSIS carbon-free smelting technology, which emits oxygen, also incorporates the latest in next-generation smelting cell design from Rio Tinto. The combination of these two innovations has led ELYSIS to develop an industrial breakthrough technology enabling sustainability and performance.

Aluminium produced during the ELYSIS research and development stage has already been used by Apple, a non-equity investor in the technology, ABInBev for Michelob Ultra cans and Audi for the wheels on its eTron GT.

incent Christ, CEO of ELYSIS, said: “Our team has accomplished tremendous work over the past months and years, showing once again the ground-breaking nature of the change we are making to the industry. Results achieved at our Industrial R&D Center demonstrate that we are making serious and sustained progress towards the large-scale commercialisation of our technology.”

Ben Kahrs, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, Alcoa, said: “At Alcoa, we are working to transform the aluminium industry, and the ELYSIS technology is an important component in our overall strategy to advance sustainably. We are very proud to see Alcoa’s early work to develop the inert anode technology move forward with the ELYSIS joint venture, which is working to revolutionise the aluminium industry. 

“Today’s announcement takes this process another step closer to full commercialisation with packages available for sale in 2024 and then industrial applications to follow.”

Ivan Vella, Chief Executive, Rio Tinto Aluminium, said: “This is a significant step in reinventing the aluminium smelting process which is well over 100 years old. It will help address the paradox that aluminium is – a material that is critical for the decarbonisation of the world, but also currently one that is very carbon intensive to produce. 

“Rio Tinto looks forward to bringing this breakthrough zero carbon technology to the market and supplying our customers with the green aluminium they are expecting.”

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