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November 16, 2001

Successful recycling process developed for smelting waste product

Melbourne Australia--November 16, 2001-- A world-first in treating a waste product from the aluminium smelting industry has been developed at Portland Aluminium in Victoria’s south west. The waste, spent pot lining (SPL), has been the subject of an eight-year $26 million research and development program that harnessed technology and expertise developed by Portland Aluminium, Alcoa Inc., Ausmelt Pty Ltd, and Australia’s CSIRO.

The Alcoa Portland SPL Process treats the hazardous waste and renders it harmless. The process produces aluminium fluoride and a granulated vitreous material referred to as ‘synthetic sand’. The aluminium fluoride decreases the overall cost of the Portland Aluminium operations by reducing the quantity of the expensive imported aluminium fluoride required for the aluminium smelting process.

The synthetic sand has been given approval for unrestricted use by the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria (EPAV), as long as it continues to have fluoride leachability measures of less than 15 parts per million. The Alcoa Portland SPL Process achieves this standard. The EPA’s approval, granted on Tuesday this week, opens up opportunities for the end product to be used in commercial applications such as road making and concrete. Both products will conserve natural resources.

A paper - ‘The success of the Alcoa Portland SPL Process’ - will be presented to representatives of 20 countries attending the Australasian Aluminium Smelting Technology Conference, in Melbourne on Friday, November 16.

SPL is a waste product of the electrolytic process in the smelting of aluminium. Prior to treatment SPL is considered to be a hazardous waste in various countries because it contains significant quantities of absorbed fluoride along with traces of cyanide. The EPA’s acceptance for these end uses means the Alcoa Portland SPL Process has treated the hazardous waste material SPL successfully and converted it into non hazardous useful products.

The disposal of SPL primarily has been in landfill because of difficulties in the development of a successful techno-economic SPL treatment process. Increasing concern about SPL land-filling practices is resulting in regulations in some countries to ban this form of disposal. As a consequence, stock-piling of SPL is occurring in an increasing number of countries pending the development of a successful treatment process.

Co-author of a paper to the conference, and Manager Spent Pot Lining Project, Ken Mansfield, says the unique gas treatment process converts hydrogen fluoride in the furnace offgases to aluminium fluoride in a multi-stage fluidised bed reactor, designed by Portland Aluminium. “The aluminium fluoride produced in the reactor has been trialed successfully in Alcoa’s aluminium smelting process as a replacement for imported aluminium fluoride,” Mr Mansfield said. “The installation in mid 2001 of a granulation system has enabled a granulated vitreous product with excellent leachability qualities to be produced.”

Work on the Alcoa Portland SPL Process began in 1992 and involved investigations into the suitability of Ausmelt’s submerged lance technology furnace process for treating SPL. Portland Aluminium, Alcoa and Ausmelt subsequently worked together on trials in Ausmelt’s Dandenong premises until 1994.

Separate development work by Portland Aluminium, involving the CSIRO, resulted in small scale production of aluminium fluoride from typical offgases from the pyrometallurgical process and agreement was reached to go ahead with the $26 million research and development program at Portland.

COMPANY BACKGROUND
Portland Aluminium is a joint venture, which is owned by Alcoa of Australia (55%), CITIC Australia Pty Ltd (22.5%) and Marubeni Australia Ltd (22.5%). The joint venturers own one of the largest aluminium smelters in the Southern Hemisphere located in Portland, Victoria, Australia. The smelter is managed by Alcoa Portland Aluminium Pty Ltd, trading as Portland Aluminium, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alcoa of Australia. Alcoa of Australia Limited is an unlisted public company whose principal shareholders are Alcoa Inc (60 percent) and WMC Limited (39.25 percent). Alcoa is also the owner of the Point Henry aluminium smelter near Geelong and the brown coal mine and power station at Anglesea. The combined annual aluminium capacity of the two smelters is more than 530 000 tonnes with most of it being exported.

In Western Australia Alcoa mines bauxite in the Darling Range south of Perth and refines this material to alumina in its three refineries in the south west region of Western Australia. Alcoa is the world’s largest producer of alumina.

Note to editors: “Alcoa World Alumina” should not be contracted to “AWA.” This acronym is the registered name of another company. In second reference, please use “Alcoa.”