Alcoa, Rio Tinto to launch first carbon-free aluminum smelting process

Apple has invested in Elysis a joint venture of Alcoa and Rio Tinto.                  Apple

Last month, for example, it announced 100% of its electricity was coming from renewable sources and that 23 of its suppliers had also committed to becoming 100% renewable. Apple went into detail pointing out that smelting process involves applying strong current to alumina to remove oxygen. Both Hall's original experiments and today's largest smelters use a carbon material that burns during the process, producing greenhouse gases. The team discovered Alcoa Corporation which knew how to produce aluminum using a method that eliminates greenhouse gas emission, but recognized that Alcoa needed a partner to bring the method to the rest of the world.

Aluminum production companies Alcoa and Rio Tinto announced Thursday the formation of Elysis, a joint venture company created to commercialize a new aluminum smelting process with no direct greenhouse gas emissions - with backing from tech giant Apple.

The Canadian government, which invested $60 million in Elysis (as did the province of Quebec), said in a news release from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office that the system "can also reduce production costs and improve productivity".

The joint venture had its start in 2015 when Apple set three of its engineers to the task of finding a cleaner way to produce aluminum, a key material in many Apple products. According to a 2015 Greenhouse Gas Report from the Washington state Department of Ecology, the Ferndale facility emitted almost 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent that year.

To advance larger scale development and commercialization of the new process, Alcoa and Rio Tinto are forming Elysis, a joint venture company to further develop the new process with a technology package planned for sale beginning in 2024.

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Alcoa has developed the technology, which is protected by 40 patent families and is ready for scale-up.

The patent-protected technology was developed by Alcoa and is now producing metal at the Alcoa Technical Center, near Pittsburgh in the United States, where the process has been operating at different scales since 2009. "That represents an amount roughly equal to taking almost 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road". The joint venture intends to invest up to $40 million (CAD) in the United States, which would include funding to support the supply chain for the proprietary anode and cathode materials.

The new venture will be called Elysis and will be headquartered in Montreal with a research facility in Quebec. The company claims that this new process could change global manufacturing of aluminum-based products.

"The financial implication of the federal and Quebec governments demonstrates their commitment to research and development in green technologies and the importance of Canada's world class aluminium industry in the Quebec and Canadian economy".

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