Alcoa gets $8.6 million grant to support renewable-powered alumina pilots

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding of $8.6 million has been awarded to Alcoa to support pilot trials of renewable electricity-powered calcination to replace gas.

The two-stage project at the Pinjarra refinery in Western Australia in budgeted at $19.7 million. It partners Alcoa with the CSIRO and will involve:

  • A first stage field pilot running until the end of 2023 and involving a commercialisation study and small-scale pilot line, able to calcine up to 200 kilograms per hour of alumina; and
  • A second stage field pilot beginning in 2024, with the construction of a larger, 1.4 megawatt electric calciner able to calcine up to 2,000 kilograms an hour of alumina.

The replacement of gas-fired calcination for making smelter-grade alumina could help reduce emissions and protect jobs linked to exports, according to a statement from federal industry minister Angus Taylor and MP Andrew Hastie on Tuesday.

Australia is the world’s largest alumina exporter and was therefore well-placed to lead the world in the commercialisation of low-emissions technology in the sector, he added.

Over 1,300 are employed at the Pinjarra refinery, and over 5,500 in alumina refining in WA’s south west.

Alcoa was awarded $11.3 million by ARENA in May last year, to demonstrate low-emission Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR) at its Wagerup alumina plant.

“Electric calcination paired with MVR could reduce emissions from alumina refining by up to 98 per cent,” the statement noted.

Picture: Alcoa

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