Zero-carbon aluminium smelting process developed by Alcoa

Mining firms Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminium have created a partnership involing Apple to accelerate commercialisation of new technology that eliminates all greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process of aluminium.

Alcoa had designed a completely new process that replaces that carbon with an advanced conductive material, and instead of carbon dioxide, it releases oxygen. Alcoa decided to  partner with Rio Tinto  as it had a robust worldwide presence as well as deep experience in smelting technology development and international sales and commercialization.

Together, the two aluminum companies formed a joint venture called Elysis, which will work to develop this technology further for larger scale production and commercialization, with a package planned for sale beginning in 2024.

The new joint venture has helped create a $144m investment pool alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec to commercialise the zero-carbon smelting process.

The technology is already in use at the Alcoa Technical Center, outside Pittsburgh.

If fully developed and implemented, this new method has the potential to eliminate direct greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process around the world, strengthening the closely integrated Canada-United States aluminum and manufacturing industries.

The new aluminum production method releases oxygen, rather than greenhouse gasses, during the smelting process

Partnership with Apple

Aluminium represents almost a quarter of Apple’s manufacturing emissions. “We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminium produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products,” chief executive Tim Cook said.

With all of Apple’s global facilities now powered with 100% renewable energy, the company is attempting to push sustainability into its supply chain.

In 2017, around 77% of Apple’s suppliers participated in an energy efficiency programme, working on measures such as lighting upgrades and motion sensors, processed heating and cooling, and compressed air. As a result, supply chain emissions fell by 320,00 metric tonnes last year.

Further information

May 15, 2018
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