Focus Aluminium – How great eco-credentials are driving a bright future
As aluminium stockists we’re always on the look-out for news about the metals we sell. This time around we’ve created an aluminium special, since the metal has such good ‘green’ credentials, producers are getting greener by the week, and as a result it’s a metal with a very bright future. Here’s some insight.
First… some really good news
If you’re feeling pessimistic about the future of the human race thanks to climate change, there’s some rare good news on the horizon. In the USA, despite Trump, the Green economy is thriving. In fact it has grown so fast that it now employs 9.5 million Americans, 10 times the number of people who work in the fossil fuels industry.
As one economist said in New Scientist magazine, the Trump administration’s America First approach to fossil fuels is “stupid when it comes to economics. If you want to be a hard nosed neo-liberal economist you’d say ‘let’s support the green economy as much as possible’”.
What’s the relevance to Metalex, as a UK aluminium supplier? Aluminium is increasingly being hailed as a metal with an excellent environmental profile, the USA’s green economy is booming, and the metal is predicted to be in greater demand than ever in future. We are pleased to do our bit, as aluminium stockists, to help create an equally strong Green Economy in this country.
11 reasons why aluminium is a winner
- The USA’s aluminium sector is dedicated to going greener fro start to finish
- Aluminium is lightweight and flexible
- The metal’s natural reflectivity of heat and light make it perfect for exterior facades and cladding systems
- Some aluminium alloys are strong enough to support heavy rooves
- It can be crafted into unusual shapes
- It’s endlessly recyclable and doesn’t lose its properties no matter how many times it is recycled
- 95% of the aluminium used in new builds is recycled at the end of a building’s life
- Dramatic energy savings can be made using heat-reflective aluminium rooves
- Amazing aluminium foam, made by injecting air into molten metal to make custom-sized air bubbles, lets soft, diffuse light into a space
- It’s the perfect metal for modular construction, something that’s currently being developed to create temporary or semi-permanent structures
- It’s a good-looking and highly effective primary building material
Alcoa goes Greener… as do plenty more producers
According to Reuters the US aluminium producer Alcoa is busy carrying out its regular five year review of capacity, deciding which assets it can improve, reduce, close down or sell. But this time they’re also looking at cost-cutting through sustainability, proof that the USA’s fast-growing Green economy is attracting some major players.
Alcoa has announced its intention to become ‘the lowest emitter of carbon dioxide among all global aluminium companies’, which means going green is a brand new and exciting differentiator in what has always been a cut-throat business.
As one of the metals that’ll benefit most from the ‘green revolution’, the sector’s green credentials are under close scrutiny, revealing a few tricky issues around tailings and pollution that will need to be resolved fast. There’s more. Aluminium is only as green as the power source used to make it, so it’s good to hear that Alcoa is determined to deal with both issues fast.
At the moment the company’s entire production process is certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, and has the lowest carbon footprint of any alumina refining system on the planet. It is also one of the lowest emitters of all major aluminium producers.
About 70% of the electricity powering Alcoa’s smelters is renewable, and their post-review target is 85%. In fact hydro power accounted for 82% of US aluminium production in 2018. Latin America isn’t far behind at 77%, it’s 75% in Europe and 10% across Asia. China is falling behind right now but it’s good to know that the country has announced its intention to develop a green aluminium industrial park in Yunnan, an area where hydro power is the go-to energy source.
Aluminium giants Rusal and Hydro already use renewable energy in their smelters. And that’s where the next big challenge lies: how to evolve the smelting process so it’s less energy-hungry, cleaner and greener. To that end Alcoa and Rio Tinto are working together on a venture called ELYSIS, designed to commercialise a smelting process that generates oxygen and eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions. They’re hoping to launch the new tech in 2024.
In addition, Rusal is exploring ways to convert waste like the red mud you get from the process into stuff that can be used. Their Sayanogorsk smelter already either processes or sells more than 90% of its waste. We can, apparently, expect similar announcements from other producers before long, since that’s what naturally happens when the competition around a new initiative heats up.
As metal stockists we’re delighted to see our sector making such dramatic advances to becoming more eco-friendly, taking more responsibility for its emissions. As experts in our field we’re proud to see things moving in the right direction, a green direction. Whatever metal supplies you need, whatever questions you want answers to, we’re here for you.
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