April 26, 2022
Alcoa advances sustainably with recycled aluminum, produced using renewable energy
At Alcoa, we are working on our vision to reinvent the aluminum industry. In some cases, that means transformative innovation that will fundamentally change the way we produce aluminum in the future. In other cases, it means important upgrades that can help advance sustainably today – the most recent example being our Mosjøen smelter.
Nestled between mountain and sea in northern Norway, the site now boasts our company’s largest investment in recycling infrastructure. There, Alcoa has completed the installation of a new furnace that uses renewable energy to recycle scrap aluminum, saving energy and unlocking the infinite recyclability of our metal.
Major investment for a growing green market
Clean aluminum chips and shavings have been compressed into briquettes and now await melting from Alcoa's induction furnace where the recycled aluminum will be blended with the smelter’s low-carbon aluminum and various alloying materials, depending on the end-use applications.
The project stems from a collaboration between Alcoa and MMG Aluminium, a German-based metals trading company that supplies Mosjøen with clean aluminum chips and shavings that have been compressed into briquettes. The induction furnace efficiently melts those briquettes and then pours out the recycled aluminum for blending with the smelter’s low-carbon aluminum and various alloying materials, depending on the end-use applications.
Hear from Alcoans about the project. Want to view in Norwegian? Click here.
Aluminum is infinitely recyclable. Induction Furnace Operator Serban Baci inspects the aluminum inspects aluminum alloy briquettes that were once scrap and will soon be sustainably recycled.
Once cast into new shapes and sizes, the recycled metal can be used for anything from beverage cans to electric cars.
“We have been working with the plant in Mosjøen for more than 15 years, and we are happy to see our long and steady relationship grow with an increase in the site’s recycling capabilities,” said Guenter Strobel, the CEO and Founder of MMG Aluminium. “We see Alcoa as the right partner for this project, which combines green energy to power a new furnace with the high-end quality standard of the products that we get from Alcoa Mosjøen.”
What is an induction furnace?
Most plants across the world remelt scrap using furnaces powered by natural gas burners located on the walls and roofs, radiating heat onto material placed in the center. Mosjøen’s induction furnace, however, runs on electricity sourced from wind and hydropower and uses alternating current that runs through a resisting coil, creating heat. That heat melts the scrap and any impurities are removed before pure aluminum is poured off via the furnace’s tilting mechanism.
The induction furnace is powered by renewable energy sourced from wind and hydro power. Espen Breivik, Operator Induction Furnace, performs routine inspections.
Alcoa’s induction furnace was Alcoa’s single largest return-seeking capital project in 2021, and it was built in a record 10 months.
New recycling infrastructure at our Mosjøen smelter can melt aluminum scrap with 100 percent renewable energy, fulfilling our metal’s potential as an infinitely recyclable material.
By melting aluminum through renewable-powered induction, approximately 4,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year are avoided by not using a traditional furnace with natural gas. That is the equivalent of taking about 1,000 cars with internal combustion engines off the road. Since the scrap being recycled has a reduced footprint across its life cycle, the total carbon footprint of the melted product is reduced dramatically.
Automation improves safety, efficiency
The furnace is charged, tended, cleaned, and robotically skimmed using an automatic system. The latest safety features help detect any unsupervised movement from a fully automated operations room. The induction furnace is able to operate semi- autonomously, given the wide range of sensors and guiding systems. This is particularly helpful when blending scrap metal with primary aluminum to perfectly match the customer’s needs. By analyzing the scrap and making advance calculations, customer requirements are fully met in terms of purity, alloy content and any specific needs.
Ready, aim, load! Each load of scrap aluminum requires careful calculation. Because different scrap contains different alloys, Alcoans are completing testing and mathematical calculations to ensure the product aligns with the customer's alloy specifications.
Aluminum scrap is given new life. First it's pressed into briquettes and shipped to Mosjøen where it awaits its sustainability journey.
Molten metal is poured into the crucible for transportation to the cast house. Because aluminum is a sustainable metal with limitless uses it can be recycled again and again and again.
Following the roadmap to a green future
The closed-loop induction furnace is just one of many methods Alcoa is advancing to produce low-carbon solutions, which includes our technology roadmap for the future and our existing Sustana line of products that can help customers reduce their carbon footprint.
Ingri Gryteselv Løkholm - Process Coordinator Induction Furnace has helped lead the capital project.
The Sustana line includes EcoDuraTM aluminum with 50 percent minimum recycled content and EcoLumTM primary aluminum with less than 4.0 CO2e emissions (scope 1 and 2) from bauxite, alumina, smelting, and casting. This performance is approximately 3.5 times better than the industry average and is offered in a full range of primary products, including billet, foundry, slab, rod, unalloyed high purity, and P1020.