Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen. It is the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
Marking the start of construction, the Government of Canada announced a further CA$20 million financial contribution to support the project.
The federal government’s financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
Louis Langlois, President, Alcoa Canada and ELYSIS board member said “We appreciate the support of the Government of Canada and its invaluable assistance in helping to support the continued research and development of the ELYSIS technology. We are proud to have developed the carbon-free smelting process that became the basis of this joint venture, which offers tremendous opportunity to address the challenges of climate change and contribute to improved environmental performance.”
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialisation activities.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS said while the technology is refined, the company will start the construction of the prototype cells.
“The combination of ELYSIS’ zero CO2 technology and Quebec’s renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member said progressing the technology is a real step towards cutting carbon emissions in the aluminium industry.
“Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”