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World’s first zero-carbon aluminum smelter technology

April 7, 2022   by Plibrico

Plibrico refractories protect groundbreaking new smelting system designed to significantly reduce carbon footprint of aluminum processors

The Plibrico Company, a supplier of monolithic refractories and installation services, announced its refractories are being used by ELYSIS to safeguard the operation of the world’s first carbon-free aluminum smelter.

ELYSIS is a joint venture between Alcoa and Rio Tinto Group that is financially supported by Apple as part of its Green Bonds program. ELYSIS smelting technology takes the novel approach of leveraging an inert anode that eliminates all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, emitting instead only pure oxygen as its by-product.

According to the International Aluminum Institute1, for each ton of aluminum produced, approximately 11.5 tons of carbon is released. The groundbreaking smelter technology from ELYSIS, protected by Plibrico refractory linings, represents an innovative new strategy for aluminum processors to reduce their carbon footprint and address global climate change in the drive to a Net Zero carbon future.

PLIBRICO’S CRITICAL ROLE

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Plibrico non-wetting refractories protect the linings of ELYSIS smelting units, acting as a thermal barrier between the liquid aluminum and the walls of the vessel, therefore preventing corrosion while ensuring maximum heat retention for greater energy efficiencies.

During development, Plibrico collaborated closely with ELYSIS in identifying the critical refractory specifications required for safe, long-term operation in temperatures approaching 1000°C. Research highlighted the need for a refractory that provided:

  • Superior resistance to aluminum wetting and penetration
  • Chemically stable, with no silica diffusion
  • Durability and dependability, field tested
  • Excellent thermal shock resistance
  • Outstanding thermal storage capacity

Plibrico engineers and project managers pinpointed the precise formula needed from the company’s vast portfolio of refractory materials, setting ELYSIS on the fast track towards bringing its technology to market as quick as possible.

Plibrico’s alliance with ELYSIS extended beyond designing the lining specifications and providing the refractory materials, to include casting lining sections, and meticulously installing the linings inside the equipment at Plibrico’s Salem, Ohio location.

Plibrico Refractory Zero-Carbon ALU.

Supported by Plibrico refractories, ELYSIS is ramping up production to a commercial scale at its Industrial Research and Development Center in Saguenay (QC), Canada. Apple has used the first batch of its commercial-purity, low-carbon aluminum in the new iPhone SE. In addition, Audi has announced plans to manufacture the wheels for its e-tron GT sports car using a combination of ELYSIS aluminum and Alcoa low-carbon EcoLum™ aluminum.

“Plibrico is proud to have supplied enabling refractory technology to ELYSIS to help it lay a pathway for the aluminum industry to a more sustainable future,” said Brad Taylor, President and CEO of the Plibrico Company. “ELYSIS’ disruptive technology has the potential to transform the way the aluminum sector — and the world — is addressing the climate crisis. Plibrico refractory materials will now literally ‘touch’ all users of Apple IPhone SE and Audi e-tron GT sports cars.”

Taylor continued: “For decades Alcoa has relied upon Plibrico durable nonwetting refractories to protect its furnaces and aluminum thermal processing equipment. We are honored that when Alcoa’s lead engineers needed refractory advice for this bold, ambitious project, they approached Plibrico for the answer.”

ELYSIS technology is on track to be commercially available by 2024, both as a ‘drop-in’ replacement to retrofit existing aluminum smelters and in the building of new units. Along with decarbonizing key parts of the aluminum value chain, ELYSIS processing technology will reduce operating costs of aluminum smelters while increasing capacity.

“When we look to the future, the answer is very much tied into ELYSIS and also tied into the developments of the market and how we see some of those supply-demand fundamentals coming through,” Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey2 told investors during the company’s 2021 annual meeting, in reference to Alcoa’s future growth outlook. “We are putting all of our efforts and all of our concentration into making ELYSIS very successful.”

United with its partners and customers, Plibrico continues to innovate towards a more sustainable future and net-zero goal, included is its active involvement with ELYSIS and similar technologies that use clean energy sources and apply emission management. The goal of net-zero emissions can only be reached if industry reduces its carbon emissions to help offset the dangerous and harmful effects it has on our environment. Plibrico will continue to do its part by providing durable refractory solutions that safeguard zero-carbon technologies.

www.plibrico.com

  1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Aluminum Sector” International Aluminum Institute, October 4, 2021.
  2. Alcoa’s plans for new aluminum capacity hinge on Elysis technology: executives” S&P Global Commodity Insights, Nick Lazzaro, November 9, 2021

 


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