Nav: Home

New, eco-friendly technologies could transform the European aluminium industry by 2050

March 03, 2016

Adopting innovative technological solutions - currently in early research phase - instead of following a conservative technology development path could slash the direct greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions of aluminium production by 66% in 2050 and reduce the associated energy consumption by 21%, according to a JRC report. The reductions between 2010 and 2050 for primary aluminium production are even higher, amounting to 72% and 23% respectively. The findings stem from an analysis of the current status of the aluminium industry in EU28 and Iceland, which quantifies the potential for GHG emission reduction and energy efficiency.

The current EU target for 2030 of reducing GHG emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels will help the long-term objective of emissions cut by 80-95% by 2050 in the context of necessary reductions by developed countries as a group.

The work carried out for this report supports the European Commission's 2015 Energy Union package which - among other - highlights the need for additional research priorities such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and inert anode technology (in the aluminium production process) to reach the 2050 climate objectives in a cost-effective way. The European aluminium industry has made substantial efforts to improve its performance in terms of energy efficiency and GHG emissions. However, to achieve the ambitious EU targets, further improvements are required.

JRC scientists compiled data on existing aluminium production facilities, their production characteristics as well as the best available and promising innovative production technologies. The latter involve the use of dynamic AC magnetic fields, wetted drained cathodes, inert anodes or carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The model used identifies cost-effective improvements in aluminium production at facility level and the impact of their implementation on energy consumption and GHG emissions, based on the condition that investments are recovered within five years and on the assumption that there are no barriers for the timely commercialisation of the identified technological solutions.

The analysis shows that most of the resulting reductions come from technologies that are in early stages of research (e.g. inert anodes that are in a technology readiness level (TRL) 4 or 5, or CCS at even lower level). Therefore, harnessing this potential requires effective policy push to create the right conditions to allow the further development and commercialisation of these innovative technologies.

Primary aluminium production is energy intensive process - it requires approximately 37 GJ of thermal energy and 58 GJ of electricity per tonne of sawn aluminium ingot produced (this thermal energy consumption is around twice the required per tonne of steel produced from the integrated route -blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace- and the electricity consumption is more than ten times the required per tonne of steel from the recycling route (electrical arc furnace).

The overall direct CO2 equivalent emissions from the process amount to around 3.5 Mt of CO2 per tonne of sawn aluminium ingot. If the average CO2 associated with the generation of the electricity used is calculated, this would add additional 7.4 Mt of CO2 per tonne of aluminium ingot. Secondary aluminium production requires as little as 5 % of the energy needed for primary aluminium production.

The total indigenous production of European aluminium industry was about 8.9 Mt in 2013, excluding the ingots imported (3.3 Mt) and the re-melted aluminium (6.1 Mt). The primary aluminium contributes to the aluminium output with about 4.2 Mt and the recycling route with 4.7 Mt.

Related links:

Energy efficiency and GHG emissions: prospective scenarios for the aluminium industry:

European Commission Joint Research Centre

Related Emissions Articles:

Uncertainty in emissions estimates in the spotlight
National or other emissions inventories of greenhouse gases that are used to develop strategies and track progress in terms of emissions reductions for climate mitigation contain a certain amount of uncertainty, which inevitably has an impact on the decisions they inform.
How buildings can cut 80% of their carbon emissions by 2050
Energy use in buildings -- from heating and cooling your home to keeping the lights on in the office -- is responsible for over one-third of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States.
Fracking likely to result in high emissions
Natural gas releases fewer greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels.
Scientists discover the source of new CFC emissions
Since 2013, annual emissions of a banned chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) have increased by around 7,000 tonnes from eastern China, according to new research published in Nature today by an international team of scientists from the UK, South Korea, Japan, USA, Australia and Switzerland.
China not 'walking the walk' on methane emissions
In China, regulations to reduce methane emissions from coal mining took full effect in 2010 and required methane to be captured or to be converted into carbon dioxide.
Droughts boost emissions as hydropower dries up
Recent droughts caused increases in emissions of carbon dioxide and harmful air pollutants from power generation in several western states as fossil fuels came online to replace hampered hydroelectric power.
Renewables could drastically cut tailpipe emissions
Ethanol and related gasoline replacement fuels produce fewer smog-causing chemicals.
China's emissions reversal cause for 'cautious optimism' says study
The decline in China's carbon emissions is likely to be sustained if changes to the country's industrial structure and energy efficiency continue, according to new research led by the University of East Anglia.
Path to zero emissions starts out easy, but gets steep
Carbon dioxide emissions from human activities must approach zero within several decades to avoid risking grave damage from the effects of climate change.
US methane emissions greater than thought, in recent years?
Methane leakage from the US oil and natural gas supply chain is greater than previously estimated, researchers report.
More Emissions News and Emissions Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.