Research and Development
 
Alcoa in Australia invests over $25 million a year in R&D and employs over 80 scientists, engineers and support staff to work on developing processes and equipment to support cleaner production and maximum efficiency at Alcoa refineries worldwide.
 
This global research team, based at the Kwinana refinery in Western Australia, are the western world’s largest refining R&D group. They are also the largest gathering of industrial scientists and engineers in WA, and have the largest number of PhD’s working together in WA outside of a university or CSIRO.
 
Our research centre is also playing a key role in finding solutions to global climate change. This team of scientists are working to develop emission reduction technologies for alumina refineries.
 
Carbon capture

Alcoa’s research and development group has set a new world benchmark for the alumina industry with the development of an innovative residue treatment process that delivers a range of sustainability benefits.
 
Known as residue carbonation, the process adds carbon dioxide to bauxite residue which is a mixture of minerals that are left behind when alumina is removed from bauxite. Although it is thoroughly washed, the residue retains some alkaline liquor and requires long-term storage. 
 
Mixing CO2 into residue reduces its pH level to the levels found naturally in many alkaline soils, where it can potentially be re-used in road base, building materials or soil amendments.
 
Carbonation’s second sustainability benefit is that it locks up CO2 which would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere. The Kwinana carbonation plant will lock up 70,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of taking over 17,500 cars off the road.
 
The CO2 is a by-product from the nearby CSBP ammonia plant and would otherwise be emitted, making this an excellent example of how industry can form sustainability partnerships to re-use waste products.
 
As well as these environmental benefits, residue carbonation also delivers economic and social benefits by reducing residue drying times and the area required for residue storage. Carbonated residue is also less dusty.
 
Since January 2007 the Kwinana carbonation plant has been operating at full capacity, treating all of the residue produced by the refinery. Prior to this, the plant has been treating around 25% of the refinery’s residue for the past two years, while awaiting the construction of a pipeline to deliver CO2 direct from the CSBP ammonia plant.
 
Alcoa’s Technology Delivery Group is conducting further research to support the deployment of carbonation in refineries that do not have a nearby CO2 supply like the Kwinana refinery. This research is examining options for extracting CO2 from powerhouse emissions and using it to carbonate residue.  
 
Alcoa plans to deploy the technology across all three Western Australian refineries, leading to CO2 savings of 300,000 tonnes each year – equivalent to taking 70,000 cars off the road.

The project – which is set to become a best practice benchmark for refinery residue treatment and storage in the industry worldwide - has been recognised by a number of prestigious awards including two Environmental Engineering Excellence Awards (one in WA and an Australia wide award presented in Canberra in 2005). 
 
In addition, the process recently received a Certificate of Merit in the 2006 WA Government Golden Gecko awards.


Media Release
Australian Environmental Engineers Award

Media release
Carbon Capture to revolutionise industry footprint




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How does carbon capture work?


Download the above process diagram to find out more!


The greenhouse savings at the Kwinana carbon capture facility alone are equivalent to taking 17,500 cars off the road
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Dr Ian Harrison (left) and David Cooling (right) from Alcoa's Technology Delivery Group receive the Australian Environmental Engineering Excellence Award from Professor Andrew Downing, national president of Engineers Australia.




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