Rio to install carbon free aluminium smelting cells at Quebec smelter

1st July 2024

By: Creamer Media Reporter


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Mining company Rio Tinto has announced a C$375-million demonstration plant equipped with carbon free aluminium smelting cells at its Arvida smelter, in Quebec.

The plant, which will be owned in a new joint venture (JV) with the provincial government through Investissement Québec, will use the same technology that has been successfully demonstrated at the ELYSIS Industrial Research and Development Center in Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean.

“This investment will further strengthen Rio Tinto’s industry-leading position in low-carbon, responsible aluminium in North America with our hydro-powered smelters and our recycling capacity. Becoming the first to deploy the ELYSIS carbon-free smelting technology is the next step in our strategy to decarbonise and grow our Canadian aluminium operations,” said Rio Tinto aluminium CE Jérôme Pécresse.

Rio Tinto will design, engineer and build a demonstration plant equipped with ten pots operating at 100 kiloamperes (kA).

The plant will have the capacity to produce up to 2 500 t/y of commercial quality aluminium without direct greenhouse gas emissions, with first production targeted by 2027. It will be located adjacent to the existing Arvida smelter, allowing the use of the current alumina supply and casting facilities.

The plant will be owned by a new JV in which Rio Tinto and the government of Québec, through Investissement Québec, will invest C$235-million and C$140-million, respectively, as equity partners.

“ELYSIS is a truly disruptive technology for the industry, and it's thanks to Quebec expertise that we are the first in the world to produce greenhouse gas-free aluminium. This is a technological innovation with unprecedented benefits for our aluminium sector, which remains an undisputed world leader,” commented Economy, Innovation and Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon.

ELYSIS JV partner Alcoa will have the option to purchase from Rio a portion of the aluminium produced over the first four years at the Arvida demonstration plant through an offtake agreement.

The JV is continuing its research and development programme to scale up the ELYSIS technology and has completed the construction of larger prototype 450 kA cells at the end of an existing potline at Rio’s Alma smelter. ELYSIS has begun commissioning these industrial prototype cells, with the startup sequence set to begin in 2024.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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